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The CDC announced late Monday that the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is the cause of 73% of new cases across the US. In some parts of the country, including much of the West, the variant accounts for 90% of new cases.
Health officials noted that prevalence of the variant has increased by more than 600% in just the last week.
Last month, officials implemented restrictive measures shortly after the variant’s discovery. Now, as Americans gather to celebrate the Christmas holiday, many fear a new wave of the virus is taking shape.
On Monday, officials in Harris County, Texas announced what is believed to be the first death linked to the variant. The news came as the country reported the most COVID-19 cases ever in a single day, with 300,000 Americas (nearly 1 in 1000) testing positive for the virus on Monday alone.
National health officials promising support amid Omicron surge, while urging vaccinations
President Biden will address the nation on Tuesday about the Omicron variant. In the speech, Biden will announce the federal government will be purchasing 500 million rapid tests. In addition, Biden is planning to deploy 1,000 troops to support healthcare workers in overwhelmed areas.
Ultimately, roughly 60% of Americans are fully vaccinated, but officials are urging those who are eligible to receive their booster shots as soon as possible. Recent studies from Moderna and Pfizer show both vaccines are significantly more effective against Omicron with a third dose.
The surge is also leading to more restrictions and cancelations across the country. The National Hockey League (NHL) announced it will delay all games for at least a week because of the surge. Proof of vaccination is now required to enter restaurants in Boston, while schools in Maryland’s second-largest district have paused in-person learning through mid-January.
The new surge comes as a COVID-weary country is ready for life to finally get back to normal. Americans everywhere remain hopeful the pandemic will soon be behind us, even as holiday gatherings are in full swing.