(CHICAGO) — More than a year after the vaccine was rolled out, new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to the highest level on record at over 265,000 per day on average, a surge driven largely by the highly contagious omicron variant.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, the previous record was 250,000 per day. It was set mid-January.
The fast-spreading mutant version of the virus has cast a pall over Christmas and New Year’s, forcing communities to scale back or call off their festivities just weeks after it seemed as if Americans were about to enjoy an almost normal holiday season. There have been thousands of cancellations due to shortages in staff due to the virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are now approximately 60,000 Americans in hospitals with COVID-19, which is about half of the number reported in January.
Hospitalizations may sometimes fall behind the case number, but these numbers could suggest that omicron does not cause as severe a condition as it used to. Experts suspect this.
Over the last two weeks, COVID-19-related deaths have increased in the U.S. from around 1,200 daily to 1,500 per day.
Several European countries, including France, Greece, Britain and Spain, also reported record case counts this week, prompting a ban on music at New Year’s celebrations in Greece and a renewed push to encourage vaccination by French authorities.