- Uneven reporting around holiday season contributes to surge
- Officials hopeful that deaths won’t rise as much as infections
The U.S. added more than 1 million people to its Covid-19 case count on Monday as the true scope of a surge in infections over the holidays began to round into view.
The highly mutated variant, combined with delayed reporting by local governments over the holidays, led to a single-day record for new cases for any country in the world. Monday’s number is almost double the previous mark of about 590,000 set just four days ago in the U.S., which itself was a doubling from the prior week.
Using a seven-day average, which smooths out the unevenness of data across the country, cases climbed to 485,363 a day on Monday, more than doubling in the span of a week. The data is compiled by Johns Hopkins University, which relies on local governments, some of which may take more time than others to update their figures.
The highest single-day number for reported cases outside the U.S. came during India’s delta surge, when more than 414,000 people were diagnosed on May 7, 2021.
The stratospheric numbers being posted in the U.S. come even as many Americans are relying on tests they take at home, with results that aren’t reported to official government authorities. That means the record is surely a significant under-estimate.
While surging cases haven’t yet translated into severe infections and skyrocketing deaths, their impact has been felt across the country as the newly infected isolate at home. The results are canceled flights, closed schools and offices, overwhelmed hospitals and strangled supply chains.
The surge is leading authorities to mull a revision of some measures put in place to help guide the nation through the latest phase of the outbreak. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened the isolation period to five days for asymptomatic people who test positive for Covid-19, the agency may add that they should get a negative test result before venturing out again, officials said.
The outbreak is also causing companies to halt their return-to-office steps, with the likes of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. adopting the more cautious stance of encouraging staff to resume working from home at the start of the new year.
The silver lining is that deaths from Covid haven’t similarly soared. Early studies show the omicron variant spreads faster than earlier strains but causes milder symptoms.
The outlook for 2022 depends on whether the death toll follows cases and picks up in the weeks to come, or if evidence suggesting the omicron wave will be less severe holds up as more real-world data emerges.