The number of infections of COVID-19 continues to rise worldwide, in America and in Virginia, with 15,449 new cases in the Commonwealth and more than 400 more hospitalizations. Deaths, however, fell to seven in Tuesday’s report from the Virginia Department of Health, one of the lowest figures in weeks.
The New Year’s weekend, however, saw 42,185 new cases, 946 hospitalizations, and 28 deaths. Nationwide, America is averaging more than 550,00 new cases a day with 1,314 deaths every 24 hours.
Public school students return to class this week in most areas, including Floyd County, but not so in Chicago, where the public teachers union voted overwhelmingly to resume remote learning.
“Let us be clear. The educators of this city want to be in their classrooms with their students,” said the union in a statement sent to media. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered the teachers to return, but the school boards closed the classrooms Wednesday because of the union vote.
Data shows most school systems in the nation have returned to in-person classes.
While the latest variant (omicron) of the virus appears to be a major part of the increased infections and hospitalizations, it does not appear to be as deadly as earlier variants and increased vaccinations have helped.
“Be concerned about omicron, but not alarmed — unless you’re unvaccinated,” says President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday. He added:
We’re seeing COVID-19 cases among [the] vaccinated in workplaces across America, including here at the White House, But if you’re vaccinated and boosted, you are highly protected. We have no reason to think at this point that omicron is worse for children than previous variants.
Most medical experts appear to agree, but also warn that the variant still is deadly to those over 65 with “underlying conditions” like respiratory ailments.
In Virginia, the state Department of Health says 78.2% of adults are now “fully vaccinated,” but that number drops to under 50% when the third “booster” shot is added.
In Floyd County, however, 57.2% of adults are considered “fully vaccinated” with the original set of shots. The number drops to 22.4% for those who have received the third “booster” shot.
Locally, statewide and nationally, COVID-related worker shortages have brought widespread cancelations of airline flights, some trains, and cancelations of entertainment events.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said current hospitalizations in the nation have topped more than 100,o00, a rise of more than 30,000 since less than a week ago.
“This narrative that it’s just a mild virus is not accurate,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN. “We’ve just done a terrible job vaccinating our kids across the country… So even though there’s a lot of happy talk about the Omicron variant, less severe disease, when you add up all the factors… we’ve got a very serious situation facing us in this country, especially for the kids.”
At George Washington Hospital, Dr. James Phillips, chief of disaster medicine, agrees. “We’re seeing a surge in patients again, unprecedented in this pandemic,” he said. “What’s coming for the rest of the country could be very serious. And they need to be prepared.”
White House infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says the health care system could face problems from the latest variant.
“Even if the rate of hospitalization is lower with Omicron than it is with Delta, there’s still the danger that you’re going to have a surging of hospitalizations that might stress the health care system,” Dr. Fauci told CNN on its “State of the Union” broadcast.