This Week in COVID-19: Omicron Spike Leads to Record Case Count


COVID-19 updates and news to know as of January 3, 2022.

As of December 30, 2021, there have been 53,795,407COVID-19 cases in the United States. In the last 7 days, there have been 2,213,940new cases identified. (CDC)

COVID-19 case counts are up globally as well: As of January 1, cases were up by 61%—for an average of 14 cases per second. (USA Today)

The FDA has made multiple amendments to the emergency use authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, including expanding booster access to adolescents between 12 and 15 years of age, shortening the time between primary vaccination and booster dosing to 5 months, and allowing a third primary dose for "certain immunocompromised children” between 5 and 11 years of age. (FDA)

On December 28, 2021, the FDA announced a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health RADx program with the goal of studying the performance of current COVID-19 antigen tests against the Omicron variant. (FDA)

During the last week of December, 2 new COVID-19 therapies received EUAs from the FDA: Merck and Ridgeback’s investigational oral antiviral molnupiravir, for treatment of high-risk adults with mild to moderate COVID-19, and Pfizer’s Paxlovid for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and chidlren 12 years or older. (Merck, FDA)

The CDC also made waves last week, announcing on December 27 that the recommended isolation and quarantine period following COVID-19 infection is now only 5 days, followed by 5 days of mask wearing for asymptomatic individuals—with no negative COVID-19 test required. The decision was widely criticized, both by the general public and by public health officials, one of whom referred to the decision as “reckless.” (Boston Globe)

During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union on January 2, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, said that he “anticipates ‘further clarification’” on the new CDC isolation guidelines, in response to the “number of questions” generated about the new quarantine protocols. (CNN)

Fauci also stated that he is more concerned about the current strain on hospitals than the soaring—and record—number of infections. (New York Times)

Modeling conducted by researchers at Columbia University projects a peak in COVID-19 cases during the week of January 9, with a minimum of 2.5 million confirmed infections during a 7-day period, followed by a drop-off in new infections but a rise in hospitalizations among individuals susceptible to severe COVID-19 outcomes. (Washington Post)

But despite these data, the rapid Omicron spread has, thus far, shown no signs of slowing down. (NPR)

Concerned about the continued spread of COVID-19, some immunocompromised individuals have begun to work around government guidelines and receive unauthorized fourth—or fifth—COVID-19 vaccines. (New York Times)

Officials in South Africa have announced that the country appears to have weathered its Omicron peak, without a spike in associated deaths, according to health department data. One official likened it to a flash flood, rather than a wave, leading to extremely cautious optimism from some epidemiologists. (New York Times)

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus, MS, PhD, is optimistic that the COVID-19 pandemic will be “defeated” in 2022—if there is global cooperation to contain the diseases’ spread. (BBC)

Check back next Monday for the latest updates and COVID-19 news you need to know.

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