United States sets record high for COVID-19 infections

The United States on Tuesday set a single day record of coronavirus infections with 441,278 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, as the new highly contagious Omicron variant gripped the country.

Tuesday’s numbers surpassed the previous high of nearly 290,000 cases on 20 December. The seven day average in the country is now more than 240,000 cases a day.

Several states such as New York and California have seen a rapid spike in the number of cases due to the new variant of the virus. California on Tuesday became the first US state to record more than five million COVID-19 cases since the onset of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, health officials in New York have reported a “four-fold increase” in the hospitalisation of children.

The New York State Department of Health last week warned of an “upward trend” in paediatric hospitalisations. For New York City, it “identified four-fold increases in COVID-19 hospital admissions for children 18 and under beginning the week of 5 December through the current week”.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, the Omicron variant was estimated to be 58.6 per cent of the coronavirus variants circulating in the United States as of 25 December.

Earlier, the public health agency had said that the Omicron variant is the driving force behind the COVID-19 surge and caused 73 per cent of the new cases.

“We had more data come in from that timeframe and there was a reduced proportion of Omicron. It’s important to note that we’re still seeing a steady increase in the proportion of Omicron,” a CDC spokesperson told Reuters.

The CDC on Monday cut isolation restrictions for COVID-19 positive Americans from 10 days to five days and similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine.

Following criticism of the move, Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious diseases expert, told CNN that the shorter isolation and quarantine guidelines stem from “the extraordinary, unprecedented wave of infections” that the county is likely to see over the next weeks.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation said that risks related to the new variant remained high.

“Consistent evidence shows that the Omicron variant has a growth advantage over the Delta variant with a doubling time of two to three days and rapid increases in the incidence of cases is seen in a number of countries,” it said.

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