Millions of Americans were displaced on Thursday on one of the busiest days of the Christmas season, as Covid-19 infections from the omicron variant surpass the peak of the delta wave and hospitals are running out of beds.
The shortage of tests at Christmas time compounded the country’s problems, as pharmacies did not have openings to perform tests, government centers were overwhelmed and home kits were in short supply.
President Joe Biden, who as a candidate criticized his predecessor Donald Trump for his failures on the same issue, promised this week to launch more testing centers and distribute 500 million home kits starting in January.
At a newly opened federal testing center in New York’s Travers Park, people lined up in long lines in the winter cold.
“I was thinking of meeting with my family, but I think I could test positive for covid so I’m not sure I can,” said Maria Félix, a resident of Queens, while waiting for her result.
Government workers also distributed home tests to passersby, but there are only 2,000 units reserved for each of the five districts of a city of 8.4 million people, so these items will continue to be in short supply for a while.
“It is very sad that there are only 2,000 tests available,” said resident Jocelyn Antigua, who wanted to confirm that she did not have covid before meeting with her elderly parents.
However, there is no indication that the test delays deter travelers: American Airlines, for example, indicated that it was operating 5,000 daily flights between December 19 and January 1, which represents 86% of its capacity compared to 2019.
“There is a tremendous pent-up demand for air travel,” a spokesperson said.
The American Automobile Association estimated that 109 million people – a 34% increase over 2020 – will hit the road, board airplanes, or take other modes of transportation on trips of 50 miles or more between December 23 and December. January 2nd.
– Omicron outperforms delta –
It is believed that the holidays will cause an increase in covid cases, since the omicron variant, which has undergone a strong mutation, is putting the country’s hospitals – and exhausted health personnel – back on the edge.
The strain now accounts for more than 90% of all cases in some regions of the United States.
Although early indications suggest that its rate of severe cases is lower, it is by far the most infectious version of the virus seen to date, meaning that the advantage of its lightness could be negated.
According to Covid Act Now, the average number of new cases every seven days stands at 171,000, about to exceed the peak of the delta registered in September.
Intensive care units are operating at more than 90% capacity in many parts of the country, according to an official tracker.
“There are more people in hospitals this year, at this time of year, than last year,” John Carney, governor of Biden’s home state of Delaware, said at a briefing in which he announced that all elective surgeries will be postponed. .
In New England, hospitals in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have struggled to retain healthcare workers.
Many of them have left due to exhaustion, Steve Walsh, CEO of the Massachusetts Hospitals and Health Association, told Boston.com.
And in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a reduction in New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square. To attend the event totally outdoors, it will be necessary to wear a mask and proof of vaccination.
Due to the lack of evidence, the US health authorities are betting on a high level of vaccination to moderate the number of serious cases of covid. Thus, the vaccination figures have been high throughout the week.
“1.86 million doses have been administered from last year’s total, including 1.30 million boosters,” tweeted White House official Cyrus Shahpar.
For its part, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a capsule against covid, developed by Merck, as a treatment for high-risk adults. The day before, he had given the green light to Pfizer’s most effective pill.
The two oral treatments are intended to complement vaccines and help ease some of the burden of severe cases.