OHIO — The omicron variant has overtaken the delta coronavirus variant in the Midwest and across America and is now dominant in the United States, accounting for 73 percent of new cases, federal health officials estimate.
The omicron spike comes three weeks after the variant was detected half a world away and days before Americans gather for the holidays, sparking fears among health officials that COVID-19 cases could return to early pandemic levels.
In the Midwest, omicron variant cases outpace the delta variant, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Delta is now responsible for approximately 24 percent of COVID-19 cases in Ohio and surrounding states, while omicron is responsible for 93 percent of cases.
The Buckeye State is in the midst of a sweeping COVID-19 surge. Hospital systems across the state are delaying nonessential surgeries to preserve bed space and health leaders are urging Ohioans to get vaccinated.
According to the state health department, Ohio is averaging more than 8,100 new COVID-19 cases per day, to go along with 320 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 32 ICU admissions.
The CDC numbers reported Monday show how quickly omicron is spreading. Nationwide, omicron variant cases increased six-fold in only a week.
In some regions of the country, the spike is higher than 73 percent. The variant accounts for at least 90 percent of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the Midwest and Pacific.
The delta variant had been dominant since June, and as recently as the end of November represented 99.5 percent of new cases.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters Monday that omicron’s rapid spread matches what other countries have seen.
“These new numbers are stark, but they are not surprising,” Walensky said.
Only about 28 percent of Americans have gotten their COVID-19 booster shots, which health officials say is the best defense against the omicron variant. Only about 61 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated but aren’t boosted, and health officials are worried about the nation’s ability to withstand a fifth wave of COVID-19.
For more information, go to the CDC data tracker.