New data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that the COVID-19 Delta variant has almost completely vanished in the United States, comprising only about one in every 1,000 confirmed cases, or 0.1 percent. CDC data shows the highly contagious but significantly milder Omicron variant has outcompeted its delta sibling for almost complete dominance, accounting for 99.9 percent of all cases.
In Florida, during the entire month of January, only about 10% of all cases were confirmed Delta cases, while 89% were Omicron. But over the last two weeks in particular, instances of Delta faded away almost completely.
The total number of confirmed COVID cases (of all variants) peaked on January 10th, racking up about four times the number of infections as the previous wave in August and September 2021. But as of Monday, despite the significantly higher number of new cases, the average number of daily deaths won’t even reach the halfway mark of the previous wave.
For comparison, the August 2021 Delta variant peak saw the daily average hit over 24,000 new cases per day. Less than a month later, deaths attributed to COVID-19 peaked at 445 per day. With Omicron, which peaked on January 10th at just under 85,000 cases per day, we haven’t yet reached the peak number of deaths, but we’re nearing the time frame when deaths will start to once again decrease. As of Monday, the average had climbed to 170 daily deaths. While it could still climb higher, there are fewer and fewer hospitalizations and the number of new cases has already been cut in half.
All told, COVID-19 remains a dangerous disease not to be taken lightly, and the possibility exists for new variants to emerge that could be significantly worse than anything we’ve experienced so far. But if the current trends continue, and no new COVID-19 variant emerges to outcompete Omicron for both contagiousness and severity, we may be looking at the beginning of the endemic phase of COVID-19. While that means the disease reaches “equilibrium” and the peaks become less severe and thus, easier to manage, it doesn’t mean the danger has passed.
From a recent Financial Times article:
Tim Colbourn, professor of global health epidemiology at University College London, said “many politicians don’t know what endemic means” even if “there’s a case for saying the worst is over”. “It doesn’t mean severity will get lower,” he said. “Endemic usually implies a steady state of equilibrium without large peaks, so we’re not really there yet. You could argue the politicians saying so are engaging in wishful thinking.”
For most, COVID-19 remains a nasty illness with debilitating, long-lasting symptoms. For others, the disease is life threatening. While the current direction of the disease appears to be good news, caution is still advised.