Marta Lavandier / AP
New analysis from the University of Washington shows that the omicron outbreak will culminate in a massive wave of infections by the end of January, but is likely to produce far less serious illness for most people.
The analysis predicts that the omicron wave will infect more than 400,000 people per day in the United States when it peaks in about six weeks. That’s far more than the 250,000 people who caught the virus every day at the height of the wave last winter.
But researchers estimate that most of those who catch omicron won’t get sick or get mildly sick. As a result, the rate of people hospitalized and dying from omicron will be much lower, the analysis concludes.
Other researchers wonder if there is enough evidence to reliably estimate how sick the omicron is. But they agree that the large numbers of people catching the virus could still overwhelm hospitals.
“What could it even be based on?” Natalie Dean, biostatistician and epidemiologist at Emory University, wrote in an email to NPR. “The evidence of reduced severity is suggestive but still very premature.”
Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said that with so many unknowns now on omicron, he would take any screening “with a grain of salt.”
“Some of the qualitative things they say seem somewhat reasonable, but it’s hard to say for sure at this point,” Lessler said in an email to NPR. “I would certainly say that far too much is ignored about Omicron at this time to do what I would consider a formal forecast or a one-time projection.”
“I think there’s a chance they’re right, but I can’t imagine what data these death figures could be based on at this point,” Lessler wrote.
Globally, the analysis predicted the world would experience 3 billion or more infections in the next three months, which is as much as the entire two years of the pandemic, said Dr Chris Murray, director of the pandemic. the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. .
Researchers predict that there could be 35 million new cases a day globally by mid-January, triple the previous highest daily rate of infections.
President Biden on Tuesday announced his plan to tackle the outbreak in the United States, sending half a billion home test kits and support teams to hospitals that could be overwhelmed with new cases.
John Helton of NPR contributed to this report.