Virus cases starting to drop in states where omicron hit later
By Maggie Astor
States where the omicron variant began skyrocketing in late December — weeks after setting off spikes in states like New York — appear to be turning a corner, with new infections starting to decline.
If that trend holds, it would be an encouraging sign that the United States may be through the worst of the omicron wave.
In Arizona, the seven-day average of daily cases fell from a peak of 20,778 on Monday to 18,208 on Friday, a roughly 12% decrease over five days, according to a New York Times database. Cases in Utah have declined 35% and in Mississippi 25% since peaking Jan. 19. Cases in North Dakota have fallen 19% since a Jan. 22 peak.
While these states are early in their downswings, they appear so far to be following a similar trend to states where the omicron surge began earlier. Those states in turn have been following a similar pattern to South Africa, where the variant was identified in November and where case averages have plummeted 87% from a mid-December peak.
But national case numbers, while falling 31% in the past two weeks, are still astronomical. The average remains around 590,000 a day — more than double the worst statistics from last winter. Hospitalizations, which lag cases, appear to be peaking and are likewise higher than last winter’s peak. Deaths, which lag more, are still increasing and have also passed last winter’s peak in some places, although not nationally.
Even in New York and New Jersey, which are further ahead on the curve than many states and have seen the seven-day case average fall more than 70%, the average is still higher than the peak of last winter’s wave.
And in some states, like Alaska and Washington, cases are still rising.
Last weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, told ABC News that he believed the wave would crest in the remaining states by the end of February. What comes after that is much less clear.
New variants could develop, given that vast areas of the world are still largely unvaccinated. The immunity granted by vaccines — or by recovery from omicron — might or might not hold up against those new variants.
And as wave after wave has shown over the past two years, circumstances can change quickly.