Covid-19 cases hit new records in US
Covid-19 infections continued to mount well above previous peaks across the United States, as students returned to classrooms while some workers stayed home after contracting or being exposed to virus.
The seven-day average of daily reported Covid-19 cases in the United States hit a pandemic record of 404,743 on Sunday, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The new peak came even as most states suspended reporting over the New Years holiday weekend. Reporting delays will likely lead to spikes in case reports this week as states catch up. While Covid-19 testing remains rare in much of the United States, Covid-19 testing was less robust last year, making comparisons between pandemic outbreaks difficult.
Hospitalizations for confirmed or suspected Covid-19 reached a seven-day average of 93,327 on Sunday, according to data released by the US Department of Health and Human Services. That’s up 35% in the past two weeks, but below the pandemic peak of 137,510 on January 10, 2021 and the smallest peak of 102,967 on September 4, 2021, during the Delta surge.
Daily cases of Covid-19 reported in the United States
Note: For all 50 states and DC, US territories and cruises. Last update
Source: Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering
Los Angeles County reported more than 20,000 new Covid-19 infections on Sunday for the fourth day in a row, a large increase from the 7,425 cases reported last Monday. Officials said the tally was likely skewed by reported delays over the New Years holiday weekend. Hospitalizations in the county have also increased, at a lower rate.
France implemented shorter isolation times on Monday for vaccinated people exposed to Covid-19, as European countries continued to adapt their self-isolation rules to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant while trying to keep workers available in vital areas such as healthcare.
People vaccinated in France who test positive for Covid-19 must now self-isolate for seven days, instead of 10, and can end isolation after five days if they are negative and have had no symptoms for 48 hours . Vaccinated people no longer need to self-isolate if a contact has the virus but should get tested immediately and do follow-up tests at home.
Since January 1, Italy has exempted vaccinated people from quarantine under certain circumstances. Germany is also debating more flexible quarantine rules for critical workers and those who have received a vaccine booster. The measures show continued efforts by European governments to avoid lockdowns for fully vaccinated people while focusing restrictions on the unvaccinated. They fear the Omicron variant could cripple parts of the economy if large numbers of Europeans have to quarantine themselves in their homes after they or their contacts test positive.
Covid-19 infections in France are on the rise, up 131% over the past week to an average of more than 162,000 per day, according to figures released on Sunday evening. In response, France is tightening certain social distancing rules. From Monday, those who can work remotely must work from home at least three or four days a week. Bars and restaurants can only serve drinks to seated people. And children over six must now wear masks wherever teens and adults do, including in the streets of Paris.
The French National Assembly is set to continue debating a new bill on Monday to convert the country’s health pass, which shows a person is vaccinated, has recovered from the virus or has tested negative, into a vaccination pass. This would effectively require a Covid-19 vaccination for a range of daily activities, from restaurant meals to trains.
The German government will decide on Friday whether to shorten the 14-day quarantine period for people infected with the Omicron variant – or their close contacts – who work in critical infrastructure such as hospitals or power plants, as well as those who received three vaccines. .
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the government is also considering new social distancing restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.
Dr Lauterbach warned that allowing Omicron to spread to achieve a higher level of population immunity, as is the policy in some countries, would be dangerous in Germany due to the relatively high number of unvaccinated elderly people. “The cases are going to multiply rapidly, affecting many unvaccinated who are not protected,” said Dr Lauterbach. “This worries me a lot.”
Covid-19 infections appear to be rebounding in Germany, after a sharp drop since mid-December. The seven-day average of infections detected daily rose to 29,000 on Monday, about a third more than a week ago. Dr Lauterbach said the numbers were likely higher due to data reporting delays.
Throughout the pandemic, Germany has struggled to generate timely and reliable Covid-19 data, reflecting a lack of coordination in its federal government system and a lack of information technology in its administration public, which often relies on fax machines.
Late and incomplete data has eroded German public confidence in official pandemic figures, according to a survey released on Monday. Some 57% of those polled said they did not trust the official infection figures, according to the Insa poll for the newspaper Bild.
Italy has also relaxed self-isolation rules since the start of the year. People who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past four months no longer need to self-isolate if close contact is positive, provided they themselves do not have symptoms of sickness. The Italian government is considering making vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 a condition for entering all workplaces. A decision could be made on Wednesday.
The total number of new infections in Italy over the past week has reached around 680,000, more than double the previous week, a sign that the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly in the country. Long queues outside testing centers and pharmacies have become commonplace.
—Giovanni Legorano contributed to this article.
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