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Covid case average exceeds delta’s peak as omicron spreads through U.S.

The number of new confirmed cases reached 242,186 on Wednesday, while reported deaths across the country totaled 2,030.
People wait in line as city workers hand out take-home Covid-19 test kits in lower Manhattan on Dec. 23, 2021, in New York.
People wait for take-home Covid test kits in lower Manhattan on Thursday.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

New cases of Covid-19 climbed above 242,000 in the U.S. on Wednesday, according to data compiled by NBC News, pushing the seven-day average to 167,683 — higher than the peak of the delta variant in early September.

The number of new confirmed cases reached 242,186, while reported deaths across the nation Wednesday totaled 2,030, according to the NBC News tally. The country has not had more than 2,000 deaths two days in a row since early October.

But there was at least one positive development Thursday. The Food and Drug Administration signed off on Merck's antiviral pill to treat Covid for emergency use, giving the U.S. another weapon in the battle against the virus.

The move comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer's antiviral drug.

Here's a look at other significant developments:

  • The omicron variant has been confirmed in all 50 states roughly three weeks after it was first detected in the U.S., according to an NBC News tally.
  • House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D.-S.C., tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday. Clyburn said he is asymptomatic and fully vaccinated. He was with President Joe Biden on Friday when the president traveled to South Carolina.
  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., announced Thursday he tested positive the previous night. He said he has "minimal symptoms so far."
  • The hope for a zero-Covid country seems to have evaporated as many scientists now expect the virus to circulate indefinitely with lower and more predictable case numbers. It's a status known as endemicity, as one of our science reporters explains.

Several areas in the Northeast hit Covid records on Wednesday. Washington, D.C., for example, reported a new peak in 7-day average cases: 1,160. Maryland reported a new high in average cases, with 3,359.