Coronavirus Continues to Dominate Headlines, as New California Cases Soar

If you’re confused by changing Covid rules, you’re not alone.

As we approach the third year of the pandemic, the coronavirus continues to make life difficult — and confusing. Official guidance on masks, testing and isolation change as new variants emerge, and a stream of case numbers turns us into armchair epidemiologists, trying to figure out how risky it is to attend a New Year’s Eve party.

If the past few weeks have left you dizzy, you’re not alone. Here are the latest developments as we head into 2022.

What are the latest case counts in California?

Cases statewide are up 263% over thepast 14 days, with a total of 5.4 million reported cases since February 2020.

Hospitalizations, however, are up just 17% and deaths are down 10%, suggesting the Omicron variant may not be as lethal as its predecessors and reflecting the impact of high vaccination rates. In California, COVID-19 had claimed 76, 548 live as of Dec. 29.

New isolation rules

The C.D.C. this week shortened its recommended isolation period, saying that people who are infected can re-enter society after five days if they don’t have symptoms or if their symptoms are resolving. The guidance adds that people should wear a mask for five days after that.

The change came about, officials said, because studies have found that a majority of transmission happens in the first five days of an infection. It also allows companies to bring back workers in half the time.

Delta Air Lines, which had urged the C.D.C. to adopt the change, welcomed the news, as did officials in the food and retail industries. In New York City, a vital subway line shut down yesterday because so many workers were out sick. Shops and restaurants have temporarily closed across Europe

Dr. Ashish Jha called the new guidance “reasonable,” as long as people follow the rule that they leave isolation only if they are asymptomatic. But Jha added that he would have required a negative rapid test before leaving isolation.

Many public health experts had a harsher reaction to the new rules, particularly the decision to omit testing.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, told CNN that the guidance “had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate.” She estimated that less than a third of people who should have isolated in the past had done so; the new rules, she said, were meant to encourage people to stay in when they were “maximally infectious.”

Experts also noted that the guidelines make no distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated people who test positive, despite the unvaccinated facing far greater risks.

“The C.D.C. should develop further guidelines, right now, that allow for those who are vaccinated and boostered to leave isolation as soon as possible after they have gotten negative results repeatedly with antigen tests,” Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, the chief health officer for Indiana University, wrote in The Times. And, he added, the Biden administration should do “everything possible to make such antigen tests freely and easily available.”

Severe cases

It’s too early to be sure of Omicron’s effect on hospitalizations and deaths. But health officials say the early data offer some cautiously positive signs.

Walensky said yesterday that cases had increased by around 60 percent over the past week and hospitalizations had risen by 14 percent. While hospitalizations tend to lag cases, she noted, the pattern is similar to countries that have had the variant for longer, like South Africa and Britain.

“The pattern and disparity between cases and hospitalizations strongly suggest that there will be a lower hospitalization-to-case ratio when the situation becomes more clear,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday.

It’s not clear that Omicron’s severity is the main cause of the split between cases and hospitalizations, though, as a year’s worth of vaccinations and infections have strengthened the country’s resistance to the virus.

Omicron and Delta

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about Omicron, which is the dominant variant in the U.S. and many other countries. But Delta, the variant that came to prominence in the summer, is still here.

South African scientists are hoping that there’s some good news: People who have recovered from an infection with Omicron may be able to fend off Delta, according to a small early study. (The reverse is most likely not true: Delta antibodies seem to offer little protection against Omicron.)

If the theory holds, Omicron may eventually overwhelm Delta, Carl Zimmer explained in The Times. And if Omicron is indeed less severe, its takeover could mean that fewer people get seriously ill or die.

But that doesn’t mean that Omicron will be the only variant for years to come, Carl wrote: “Once people gain immunity to Omicron, natural selection may favor mutations that produce a new variant that can evade that immunity.”

Something else to know about Omicron versus earlier variants: The incubation period seems to be shorter. It may take three days for people to develop symptoms, become contagious and test positive, compared with four to six days with Delta.

New Year’s Eve

All of this could have you asking whether to gather with friends or family members for New Year’s Eve tomorrow. Many public health experts agree that you can celebrate with your favorite people as long as you’re taking precautions.

To help you make a decision and gauge the level of risk, take this quiz.

Tom Wright-Piersanti and Claire Moses are reporters with The New York Times. Story, copyright, The New York Times.

22 Comments

  1. Sara Cody is keeping the fear porn frenzy going by scaring everybody about the alleged dangers of the “Omicron variant.” How much longer must we endure this nonsense? If vaccines, social distancing and masks work, then why are they not working? It is past time to wake up and realize that COVID-19 is not going away and that we need to learn to live with it.

  2. The only good news is relative, that while Omicron is much more contagious, and we’re seeing the results throughout the country (and the rest of the world), it’s less virulent. It also isn’t the flu, though.

    And the spread is once again aided and abetted unsurpringly by the childish and irresponsible who reject or resist obviously-needed health and safety measures.

  3. Speaking of fear, I’m more afraid Commander Cody will make it impossible to go out for a beer, a burrito, or a cheeseburger than I am of getting sick and/or dying. And afraid that the effects will be long-lasting, as all the bars, taquerias, and burger joints continue to go out of business one by one from all the hassle.

    It’s been two years and I don’t know any more than at the beginning: Do I already have covid-19? Am I shedding virus right now? Or have I already had it, but didn’t notice because it was such a mild case? And did I also get a mild case of myocarditis from the first vaccination? Do I have antibodies? On a scale from 0 to 100, do I have antibodies?

    “people who are infected can re-enter society after five days… The change came about, officials said, because studies have found that a majority of transmission happens in the first five days of an infection.” A majority? So it’s what, 60-40 that viral shedding happens in the first five days, and if 40% happens later, that’s casual? Of course this makes zero sense.

    Last week, the CDC said 73.2% of all new cases in the U.S. were omicron. This week, they said no, last week was actually 23.7%, oopsy daisy. But trust us, by next week the real number will be 73.2% for sure!

  4. With the elections coming up, I’m seeing more and more national news stories talking about the pandemic becoming an endemic. We’re probably 2 months away from the world outside of Santa Clara County completely forgetting what covid even means. It’s over guys. Time to move on. Sorry about that to all the catastrophizers, fearmongers and people who have made so much money posting covid videos on YouTube. Everyone is going to need to find a new topic to discuss.

  5. at the end of the day, it is clear who is the man of the house. the man who writes the checks

    as of 12/31/2021, it is time for the man of the house to write dat rents chex

    no more Rona, no more Newsom skirts, no more fictional law suit, cough dem dollars

  6. Dr. Harvey Risch, Yale School of Medicine professor and Epidemiologist:
    “Well, to be frank, we ain’t seen nothing yet (of) this Omicron virus, we’re likely to see
    …next week or by Tuesday or Wednesday (Jan 5th), a million cases per day in the US.

    This is where it’s going. This is NOT Frightening.
    This is good news because it’s generating a lot of population immunity.

    We should NOT be looking at the Cases.
    And unfortunately, the Health Commissioner(s)… are still mired in the Past looking at CASE Numbers.
    (They)..should be looking at Hospitalizations and Mortality from Omicron.
    That’s what tells you on what to do about Policy Moving Forward and (They Are) NOT doing it.”

  7. “we’re seeing so many people get COVID at this point.
    Do you think the Government will be Forced to Recognize Natural Immunity?”

    Dr. Marty Makary, M.D., M.P.H.,Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health.
    “There (are over) 141 studies.
    At this point, any more research is not going to convince them.
    They clearly have an Entrenched Political Interest and to them it
    threatens (the) ‘Vaccinate Everybody’ message and that’s the bottom line.

    And, I think that’s eventually where there is going to be so much pushback.
    They’re going to have to at some point just recognize that
    People are NOT Going to Tolerate Dishonesty in Science.”

  8. I am 100% on topic.

    No more hiding behind Newsom’s skirt…

    No more double-degreed single white males using the justifiable public sympathy for single mothers of three who can’t earn money due to a Coronatarian lockdown and skipping out on your responsibilities and these feeble attempts to drum up fear and hope for more shutdowns and more time to skip rent…

    How much is your landlords $100,000 unit worth now? Still laughing at him?

    I always did wonder why your lawyer would take on the “crumbling deck” case on contingency. What is your rent that you won’t pay like $1000/month? 20% of that over what 2 years is like $5000? I don’t know a lawyer that would pick their nose for the juice on $5000, what is that like $1750? Their secretary wouldn’t pick their nose for that much. You musta been paying them hourly up front, and that musta cost way more than $5000 in fees. So maybe you made that up, just maybe, right?

  9. “Newsome (sic) extendeded (sic) his emergency powers till the end of March. That means in my city there will be no evictions at least until then. By then the new waves of Covid will be in full power”

    haha!

    Sooooo that’s what brought you back to the troll section (assuming this Newsome (sic) loophole is true, seems a lot of activists are whining about evictions though…)

    March is round dat corner and you are hoping and (not really) praying, [worshiping at the fattened cow idol of evil government more likely], that more people are dying so you can extend your freeloading a few more months. CNN is a proper adoration for such things. What is life or two vs your $1000/month rental discount in the grand scheme of things?

    Got it, well at least you are consistent!

  10. so I’m right again

    thought so

    I always wondered how someone can convince a judge they are a hard case when they have two degrees and world class Level 20 Tech certifications, I mean it seems someone with those bona fides can get remote work with a snap of the fingers, and of course it would have to be 100% true because they would have to do it under oath

    those peoples amaze me

  11. oh, I stand corrected, you’re not a double-degreed highly certified super-tech security analyst, you’re a double-degreed highly certified risk analyst…

    impressive

    your masterful risk analysis led you to conclude that 20 years in Mountain View was better spent renting than speculating on Googletown real estate, or was that under counsel from your colleagues?

    hmmmm maybe a refund is in order…

    all that money you saved on capital gains taxes must have gone somewhere, so certainly you can afford the trifle of dat rents, with bidenflation at Carter levels, what good is cash stuffed in the holes in your mattress?

  12. Do you know what isn’t soaring? Deaths or hospitalizations. Combined – San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland and Santa Clara County have a 7-day average of 4-deaths out of millions of people. The surge in cases is largely due to vaccinated and asymptomatic people getting tested, which is a waste of resources. People went to get tested because, as you can see with Steven, the have PTSD from being scared for two-years.

    Steven, it is safe. This County is super vaccinated.

    In South Africa and the UK, where again, cases rose due to Omicron – they saw deaths plunge. Oddly enough, South Africa has very low deaths with a 26% fully vaccinated rate – meaning, natural immunity matters because they did have big waves, too. Since South Africa and the UK are two weeks or so ahead of us with variants/COVID – they have NOT seen an increase in deaths, and we should expect the same here.

    Trust the science, Steven.

  13. It’s over Steven. You’ll get your new direction on how to respond to posts tomorrow. Take heed to their advice or you are risking whatever it is that you are trying to accomplish. Don’t forget we have an election coming up.

  14. Coronatarians are so consistent, they want to censor, lockdown, and moratorium their responsibilies away. But alas it’s the first of month and it’s time for men to do their jobs and write the checks that make the world go round, and the rest can be known by the skirt they cower behind.

  15. It is time to admit that masks, vaccines and social distancing are not doing squat to stop COVID. This virus has been political since last year. Remember when then-Sen. Kamala Harris said she would not take a Covid-19 vaccine if Donald Trump said to take it?
    https://youtu.be/-dAjCeMuXR0

    So why listen to the politicians now?

  16. Bill Hough,
    Politicians are not doctors – might as well listen to your local barber/ hairdresser for health advice (Nancy Pelosi does – sometimes…).
    and
    Doctors in the Employment & Control of Government are like Politicians, not free to speak of methods, policies or practices that do not fit the ruling party narrative.
    and
    Medical procedures and health maintenance are the primary responsibility of the individual with consultation, questioning, and advisement of their doctor or medical service provider.

    Luckily we live in a time when information is readily available (censored sometimes…)
    to inform the individual so that they can be prepared to discuss options and concerns with their doctor before deciding on treatments and care.

    What will 2022 Bring?
    Biden’s Strategy on COVID for the past year was:
    1. Yell ‘Get Off My Lawn’ to Vaccine Hesitant and the Unvaccinated.
    2. Ignore all the Science and World-Wide studies on Natural Immunity.
    3. Ignore Therapeutics & Treatments that prevent hospitalization & death.
    4. And start to roll out an Anemic Testing Plan.

    ————“Most say Biden failing COVID fight… (08Dec2021 PBbedard) —————–

    “Do you approve or disapprove of President Biden’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic?”
    Some 55% said “Disapprove,”
    with most of those, 44%, choosing “Strongly Disapprove.”
    Some 43% approve of his efforts.”

    “On the question of fighting COVID-19,
    likely voters said Biden has done a “Worse” job than Trump by a 49%-39% margin.
    Some 10% said both have done the same job,
    and 20% of DEMs chose “worse.””
    (Rasmussen Reports)

  17. They are not working Bill because of science denying people like you. All you have to do is nask up, vaxx and hunker down indefinitely. Why is that so hard for you selfish people?

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