With holiday plans hanging in the balance for millions of people, 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.
The highly transmissible strain overtook delta as the dominant variant on Monday.
A day later, multiple states and territories set records for seven-day averages, including New York, Maine, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Maine also set several hospitalization records, including for inpatient beds used to treat Covid-19, total adults hospitalized with confirmed or suspected infections and adults in the intensive care unit, while New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin broke their own hospitalization records.
Despite the sobering numbers, millions of people are expected to travel in the coming days. Nearly 2 million people passed through TSA checkpoints on Tuesday, roughly the same number on the same day in 2019, according to the agency's daily count.
Here are some other developments from the last 24 hours:
- U.S. cities are scrambling to boost testing capacity before holiday gatherings
- Major hospitals in the New York region have stopped using monoclonal antibody therapies because they have run out of the one treatment that appears to be effective against the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
- California on Tuesday became the second state to require booster shots for health care workers.
- Texas A&M's football team backed out of the Gator Bowl, citing injuries and a Covid-19 outbreak.
- The National Hockey League says "it's no longer feasible" to send players to the Beijing Olympics next month amid the Covid surge.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which maintains one of the leading pandemic models, updated its forecasts Wednesday to include the projected spread of omicron.
Dr. Christopher Murray, a professor of health metrics sciences and the institute's director, said omicron will likely spread to most countries by the end of December, and the world could see “an enormous surge in infections” in coming months.
The institute’s models estimate that more than 3 billion Covid-19 infections could be recorded globally between now and the end of March, driven primarily by the highly contagious omicron variant.
In South Africa, where omicron was first detected, case numbers have dropped significantly this week, casting a glimmer of hope for outbreaks in other countries. After hitting a high of some 27,000 new cases Thursday, the number declined to about 15,424 on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.
“The drop in new cases nationally combined with the sustained drop in new cases seen here in Gauteng Province, which for weeks has been the center of this wave, indicates that we are past the peak,” Marta Nunes, senior researcher in vaccines and infectious diseases at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, told The Associated Press.
In the United Kingdom, a recent report by the Imperial College London found a reduction in the risk of hospitalization for omicron infections compared to delta. The report also found that previous infection reduces the risk of hospitalization by about 50 percent and the risk of a hospital stay of one or more days by 61 percent.
On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the first Covid-19 antiviral pill in the United States to protect against severe disease. Paxlovid will be prescribed for adult use and children ages 12 and up with mild to moderate Covid who are at risk of severe disease or hospitalization.
The pill from Pfizer is not a replacement for vaccinations, the FDA said.