Omicron becomes dominant variant in U.S. as holiday gatherings begin


Omicron is spreading rapidly nationwide and has been found in at least 48 U.S. states as of Monday.

Omicron has taken the hold to become the dominant COVID-19 variant in the United States as more people are traveling and gathering for holidays.

The infection cases caused by Omicron amounted to 73.2 percent of all infection cases in the week ending Dec. 18, from 12.6 percent of all infection cases in the week ending Dec. 11, according to the latest model estimates of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday.

At the beginning of this month, Omicron only accounted for 0.7 percent of all infection cases.

Omicron is spreading rapidly nationwide and has been found in at least 48 U.S. states as of Monday, since the first case in the country was detected in California on Dec. 1.

Travelers wait at the check-in counters of Southwest Airlines at Dallas Love Field Airport in Dallas, Texas, the United States, Dec. 17, 2021. Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, has tested positive for COVID-19, the company headquartered in Dallas of the U.S. state of Texas said on Friday, two days after he attended a hearing in U.S. Senate along with some other U.S. airline chiefs and lawmakers. (Photo by Guangming Li/Xinhua)

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The unprecedented infectiousness of the Omicron variant and its possible ability to evade the immune system have stoked concerns across the nation. However, experts said preliminary data suggest the new variant appear to cause less severe symptoms and hospitalizations.

COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations continued to surge in the United States, leading to cancellation of large events including sports games and live concerts. Some colleges have shifted back to online classes and exams for the rest of the semester to make students go back home earlier.

The country is averaging about 130,000 new cases daily, a 10 percent increase from the previous week, the latest CDC data showed.

The seven-day average of daily deaths is about 1,180, up 8.2 percent from the prior week, according to the CDC weekly data.

Currently, the United States is witnessing about 7,800 new hospital admissions each day, a 4.4-percent increase from the previous week, the data showed.

A person performs a self-swab test for COVID-19 in the Brooklyn borough of New York, the United States, Dec. 17, 2021. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua)

New York State set COVID-19 infection record for a third straight day on Sunday with more than 22,000 positive cases. People waited in long lines at testing sites.

However, the surge in new infection cases did not deter people from flying for holidays. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has screened over two million passengers for a fourth day in a row.

The TSA expected up to 21 million Americans will fly between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3.

Experts warned the United States is moving toward Christmas in dramatically different shape than it was before Thanksgiving.

A month ago, case counts had been rising, to about 90,000 per day on average. For much of December cases appeared to hover around 120,000 but recently leaped above 130,000 per day, Johns Hopkins University data showed.

Health experts urged the public to test before heading for travels and large gatherings, getting vaccinated and boosted, masking in public indoor settings, and practicing physical distancing to slow transmissions.