Live Covid updates: US faces wave of omicron deaths, Japan expands restrictions, including in Tokyo

Associated press

Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 7:08 a.m.
Last updated: about 23 minutes ago

NEW YORK (AP) — The fast-moving omicron variant may cause less severe illness on average, but COVID-19 deaths in the United States are rising and modelers predict an additional 50,000 to 300,000 Americans could die from it. here the end of the wave in mid-March.

The seven-day rolling average of new daily COVID-19 deaths in the United States has been trending upward since mid-November, reaching nearly 1,700 on January 17 – still below the peak of 3,300 in January 2021. Deaths of COVID-19 among nursing home residents began to increase slightly two weeks ago, although still at a rate 10 times lower than last year before most residents were vaccinated.

Despite signs that omicron is causing milder illness on average, the unprecedented level of infection spreading across the country, with cases still on the rise in many states, means that many vulnerable people will become seriously ill. . If the upper limit of the projections were to come true, it would push the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States to more than one million by early spring.

“A lot of people are still going to die because of omicron transmissibility,” said University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi. “It will unfortunately get worse before it gets better.”

Morgues are running out of space in Johnson County, Kansas, said Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the health department. More than 30 residents have died in the county this year, the vast majority of them unvaccinated.

But the idea that a generally less severe variant could still claim the lives of thousands of people has been difficult for health experts to convey. The math – that a small percentage of a very high number of infections can lead to a very high number of deaths – is hard to visualize.

“Overall, you’re going to see more sick people even though you as an individual are less likely to be sick,” said Katriona Shea of ​​Pennsylvania State University, who co-leads a team that brings together multiple pandemic models and shares the combined projections with the White House.

The wave of deaths headed for the United States will peak in late January or early February, Shea said. In early February, weekly deaths could match or exceed the delta peak, and possibly even exceed the previous peak in deaths in the United States last year.

An unknown portion of these deaths are people infected with the delta variant, but experts say omicron is also claiming casualties.

“It’s driven by the omicron,” Shea said of the wave of deaths to come. The combined models project that 1.5 million Americans will be hospitalized and 191,000 will die from mid-December to mid-March. Given model uncertainty, the number of deaths in the United States during the omicron wave could range from 58,000 to 305,000.

Still, it has become increasingly clear that the risk of omicron is lower than that of earlier variants. New evidence from nearly 70,000 Southern California patients suggests that omicron causes milder disease than delta.


TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese government will place Tokyo and a dozen other regions under new COVID-19 restrictions beginning Friday, allowing local leaders to shorten restaurant hours as a rise in coronavirus cases increases. ‘omicron threatens to cripple society.

A government-mandated panel on Wednesday approved a plan to put the 13 zones under a three-week restriction until February 13, said Economic Revitalization Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa, who is also in charge of measures against viruses.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to formally announce the new measures at a government task force meeting later on Wednesday.

Japan has so far resisted using lockdowns to fight the pandemic and instead focused on requiring restaurants and bars to close early and not serve alcohol, and asking the public to wear masks and practice social distancing, as the government seeks to minimize damage to the economy.

Japan has gradually expanded its social and business activities since an earlier wave of infections subsided in September, which experts say was largely due to the country’s rapid progress in rolling out the first two doses. of vaccines.

But experts say breakthrough infections with the omicron variant are more common. The fast-spreading variant has caused a number of medical workers and others to self-isolate after testing positive or coming into close contact with someone who has. The sharp rise in infections has already begun to cripple hospitals, schools and other sectors in some areas.

The national government is taking action following demands from local governors, including Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who has sounded the alarm about the possibility that essential public services, such as public transport and garbage collection, could be paralyzed.

Tokyo reported 5,185 new infections on Tuesday. Nationwide, Japan has recorded more than 32,000 cases, bringing its total to 1.93 million, with 184,000 deaths.


VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican secretary of state and his deputy have both tested positive for the coronavirus, Vatican officials said Tuesday.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State and Pope No. 2, has “very mild” symptoms, while Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra is asymptomatic, officials said.

There was no immediate comment on their latest contact with Pope Francis. It was unclear whether Francis received a booster shot, which was administered to his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

These are the first cases of COVID-19 confirmed so high up in the Vatican hierarchy since the start of the pandemic.

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