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NEW HAMPSHIRE — The omicron coronavirus surge has peaked in New Hampshire, according to health experts, offering a glimmer of hope for Americans as the COVID-19 pandemic approaches the two-year mark.
Optimism that the majority of states will see a peak in omicron variant cases by mid-February is guarded, however, clouded by fears that another variant may take its place.
An NBC News analysis of Department of Health and Human Services data shows that COVID-19 cases are trending downward in 24 states. As of Sunday, the report said, numbers declined to 706,000 average cases per day from a peak of 825,000 on Jan.15.
On Jan. 20, average hospitalizations peaked at nearly 160,000, though it takes a few days for hospitalization trends to catch up with daily infection trends, NBC explained.
"You never want to be overconfident when you're dealing with this virus," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." The coronavirus, he added, has "surprised us in the past," but he nevertheless expects a peak in most U.S. states by mid-February.
"Things are looking good. We don't want to get overconfident," Fauci reiterated, "but they look like they're going in the right direction right now."
World health officials sounded similar optimism Monday with predictions that the omicron wave could give way to a new, more manageable phase of the pandemic.
The rapid drop of cases in most U.S. states follows a pattern seen in the United Kingdom and South Africa, with researchers predicting a period of slow spread in many countries by the end of March.
The World Health Organization issued a statement Monday anticipating an end to the "emergency phase" of the pandemic this year, and said the omicron variant "offers plausible hope for stabilization and normalization."
Fauci and Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO's Europe regional director, both cautioned against complacency.
New coronavirus variants are almost certain to emerge, they said. But with vaccinations, new drug therapies, and testing and masks during surges, the world could reach a less-disruptive level of the disease in which the virus is “essentially integrated into the general respiratory infections we have learned to live with.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.