Though the situation was varied around the country, the overall picture is growing worse by the day.
Many states are still struggling with the Delta variant, which ravaged the country over the summer and fall. While reports of new cases have fallen recently in some Midwestern and Western states that had been hit hard by Delta, those regions could be vulnerable to an influx of Omicron cases. Much of the Northeast, where Omicron is spreading rapidly, had already been in the throes of a Delta-fueled surge this fall.
In a welcome bit of good news, Moderna announced on Monday that a booster shot of its coronavirus vaccine significantly raises the level of antibodies that can thwart the Omicron variant. The pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech had announced this month that a booster shot of their vaccine also increased the level of antibodies against Omicron.
But only about a third of American adults who are fully vaccinated have received a booster. The risk that presents as Omicron approaches is laid bare by the severity of the recent spike in cases in New England, the most vaccinated region of the country.
Nearly 11,000 people in the six New England states are now testing positive for coronavirus every day. Almost all of these states have also seen an uptick in the number of hospitalizations and deaths over the past two weeks.
To New Englanders, and likely to many across the country in the coming days and weeks, this recent pattern has been bleakly familiar — and extremely frustrating.
“We were trending in the right direction with the vaccines,” said Ezra Small, 40, who lives in Pittsfield, Mass. He had started seeing friends, if reluctantly, and even celebrated Hanukkah with family members.
Now with the arrival of Omicron, he said he had once again stopped socializing completely. After all the talk of things slowly returning to normal, he said, “it really sucks.”
Reporting was contributed by Roni Caryn Rabin, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Carl Zimmer, Eoin Higgins, Will Davis and Emma Fitzsimmons.