Minute by minute: the latest news about the coronavirus and the omicron variant

During omicron, illness severity appears to be less than during other periods of high transmission, CDC study finds

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During a period when the omicron variant was dominant, serious outcomes for hospitalized COVID-19 patients—including admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), use of ventilators, and death—were less common than during the delta peak or the first winter wave, according to a study released Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Furthermore, although the daily average of new cases and hospital admissions reached all-time highs during the omicron period, there were fewer hospitalizations and far fewer deaths per 1,000 COVID-19 cases than during the delta period or during the first winter. These indexes compared the peaks of each metric within each analyzed period.

Disease severity appears to be less during the omicron period due to a combination of factors, according to the researchers: higher vaccination coverage including booster shots, acquired immunity from previous infection, and potentially lower virulence of the variant. of omicron

Among hospitalized COVID-19 patients, around 13% were admitted to the ICU during the omicron period, compared to 18% during delta and the first winter peak. About 7% of patients died in hospital during omicron, compared to more than 12% during previous peaks.

In addition, patients hospitalized with COVID-19 during the period in which the omicron variant predominated had a shorter average length of stay than during other periods of high transmission: about 5.5 days, compared to 7.6 days during the peak. of delta and approximately eight days during the first peak of winter.

For this study, researchers looked at indicators of COVID-19 during three periods of high transmission: the first winter surge from December 2020 to February 2021, a period of delta variant dominance from mid-July to October 2021, and an early period of omicron dominance from mid-December 2021 to mid-January 2022.

“Although disease severity appears less with the omicron variant, the high volume of hospitalizations can overwhelm local health care systems, and the average daily number of deaths remains considerable,” the researchers wrote. “This underscores the importance of national emergency preparedness, specifically hospital emergency capacity and the ability to adequately staff local health care systems.”

It also reinforces the value of vaccination in preventing serious illness and death, they said.

These findings reflect general trends and are not indicators of individual risk. COVID-19 hospitalization indicator data include incidental COVID-19 infections, which could affect severity in hospital. The delta variant was still circulating during the beginning of the omicron spike, which could also affect gravity indicators.

The researchers analyzed trends in COVID-19 cases and deaths reported to the CDC by state and territorial health departments, and hospital outcomes among more than 300,000 COVID-19 patients in 199 hospitals.

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