US surpasses 2 million cases in one week for first time

December 31, 2021
A man is tested for COVID-19 at a walk-up testing site on Tuesday in Miami.
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The United States has recorded more than 2 million coronavirus cases in one week, breaking yet another record as the omicron variant surges across the country. 

According to Johns Hopkins University data, the U.S. has reported 2.1 million COVID-19 cases within the past week, outpacing the previous record of 1.7 million cases from Jan. 3-9, 2021. 

The weekly case count is almost that of the entire month of November, when 2.55 million cases were reported. 

Multiple states set records for new coronavirus cases on Thursday, including Louisiana, where the 24-hour total of 12,467 new cases was more than a third above Wednesday’s 9,378, Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a news conference livestreamed on Zoom.

The weekly death count, however, isn’t approaching record levels. The most deaths recorded in a single week was 23,415 between Jan. 10-16 of this year. There have been 10,823 reported deaths in the past week.

The relatively low number of deaths in contrast to high case counts may support early evidence that omicron is more contagious, but less severe

Also in the news:

► Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned Americans to stay away from large-scale New Year’s parties and opt for small gatherings with vaccinated and boosted people.

► New Mexico is running short of free at-home rapid tests to detect COVID-19 infections as the state struggles with the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

► New coronavirus cases have hit the 10th daily record in Spain, with an unprecedented 161,688 new confirmed infections.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 54.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 824,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 286.4 million cases and 5.4 million deaths. More than 205.8 million Americans – 62% – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC

📘 What we’re reading: Rapid tests, lots of rapid tests: How US schools plan to reopen amid omicron-fueled COVID surge. Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Study: Less severe illness, fewer deaths in South Africa’s omicron wave

A new South African study found that hospitalized patients during COVID-19’s omicron surge were far less likely to have severe illness or die.

Compared to South Africa’s coronavirus waves in summer 2020, winter 2020, and spring 2021, the newest wave of the virus, which coincided with the identification of omicron, saw fewer severe cases and deaths.

Seventy-four percent of hospitalized patients required oxygen therapy during the delta variant’s wave in South Africa. That number has dropped to 17.6% amid omicron. The median length of stay in the hospital prior to omicron was seven to eight days – it’s since dropped to three days.

The death rate of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in South Africa during the delta wave was 29.1%. Omicron’s is 2.7%.

Because omicron is so incredibly contagious, some medical experts say its peak isn’t likely to last long. It’s already burned through South Africa since it was first identified the day before Thanksgiving and cases are falling there.

US children hospitalized with COVID-19 in record numbers

The omicron-fueled surge that is sending COVID-19 cases skyrocketing across the U.S. is putting children in the hospital in record numbers, and experts lament that most of the youngsters are not vaccinated.

“It’s just so heartbreaking,” said Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious-disease expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It was hard enough last year, but now you know that you have a way to prevent all this.”

During the week of Dec. 22-28, an average of 378 children 17 and under were admitted per day to hospitals with the coronavirus, a 66% increase from the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

The previous high over the course of the pandemic was in early September, when child hospitalizations averaged 342 per day, the CDC said.

On a more hopeful note, children continue to represent a small percentage of those being hospitalized with COVID-19: An average of nearly 10,200 people of all ages were admitted per day during the same week in December. And many doctors say the youngsters seem less sick than those who came in during the delta surge over the summer.

Tested positive for COVID during the holidays? Here’s what to do.

Testing positive for COVID-19 starts a confusing, disruptive and at times frightening process – one that millions of Americans will likely go through in the coming week.

First, you need to isolate. That’s a more intense version of quarantining – it means cutting off contact with other people as much as possible so you reduce the chance of infecting them. This also means forgoing travel, not going to work and even limiting contact with people in your own household who aren’t infected.

The CDC says isolating is a necessary step whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated, and whether you have symptoms or feel fine.

Everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should monitor their symptoms. And people who are unvaccinated or at high risk for severe disease should be extra-vigilant for symptoms that might require emergency care. Call your doctor for early treatment options.

How long should you isolate? How long will I be contagious? What if you are in close contact with someone who tested positive? Here’s what you should know about omicron and COVID-19 this holiday season.

Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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