COVID-19 cases are increasing across the country again after travel and indoor gatherings for Thanksgiving, and the numbers are expected to continue rising as Christmas and other winter holidays approach.
At least 34 states have higher case averages now than they did before Thanksgiving, The Wall Street Journal reported, with some of the highest increases in the Northeast. The national 7-day average for new cases has risen above 120,000 per day, jumping about 22% in the past 2 weeks.
“We have experienced, as we expected and predicted, a post-Thanksgiving spike,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said during a news briefing last week.
Hospitalizations are also beginning to increase, moving up about 20% since the end of November, Reuters reported. Some states, such as Michigan and New Hampshire, reported record numbers of hospitalizations during the past week and have requested help from the National Guard to support hospital staff.
In several states, wastewater samples show that coronavirus concentrations are rising, the Journal reported. Forecasters predict the numbers will likely grow worse during the next month and peak in January before dropping again.
Scientists are trying to understand how the new Omicron variant could affect the increase in cases going into the winter holidays. More states are reporting Omicron cases — with at least 75 known cases in 30 states — though the Delta variant continues to make up 99% of new cases, according to CBS News.
In response, health officials are encouraging people to get vaccinated, receive booster shots, use rapid tests to detect infections before holiday parties, and continue to wear masks. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a statewide indoor mask mandate, which began on Monday.
Saturday marked 1 year since the FDA authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine as the first of three vaccines in the U.S. to offer protection against the coronavirus. Since then, more than 480 million shots have been given across the country, according to the latest CDC data.
Now more than 76% of eligible Americans have received at least one shot, and 65% are fully vaccinated. Nearly 54 million people have received a booster shot.