Has Omicron peaked in the US?

key takeaways

  • U.S. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are falling, but deaths are still rising.
  • Cases and hospitalizations are still rising in some states.
  • The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the UK peaked on January 25. With the UK’s pandemic trend typically two weeks earlier than the US, this suggests the US death toll could soon drop.

U.S. COVID-19 cases appear to have peaked on January 15, meaning the biggest wave of outbreaks so far may be fading for the country as a whole.

But it’s too early to say the worst is over for Omicron. Death rates are still climbing, and cases are still rising in some states.

Cases and hospitalizations fall nationwide

By January 31, the weekly average of new COVID-19 cases was about 45% lower than on January 15. The peak came a few days later than in 2021, when the record daily rolling average of 250,000 cases began to decline after Jan. 11.

Hospitalization follows a similar pattern. The rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations appears to have peaked on January 15 this year, but remains above 2021 levels. One in 10 Americans currently lives in a county with more than 90 percent of hospital beds, according to the University of Michigan’s COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project.

Most hospitalizations likely occur in unvaccinated patients; as of December 25, 2021, nearly 80% of hospitalized adult COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated, according to the CDC.

However, hospitalized patients may be doing better than past waves. A preprint study of patients in the Southern California health system who tested positive for COVID-19 found that an Omicron infection was about half as likely to send a patient to the hospital as an infection caused by the Delta variant. The findings reflect evidence from studies in other countries that Omicron causes milder cases of COVID-19. Ventilation usage among COVID-19 patients is the lowest throughout the pandemic.

Death toll rises

Last year, the U.S. seven-day average of new COVID-19 deaths peaked on January 13 and steadily declined in late February. Today, COVID-19 deaths are still on the rise, most recently on January 31 with an average of 2,287 new deaths per day. But that’s still about 800 fewer people than the same period in 2021.

Lesser infections and widespread availability of vaccines help explain why the death toll is lower than in 2021.

Why are deaths rising when cases and hospitalizations fall? Despite recent improvements in new cases and hospitalizations, many critically ill patients remain. Many hospitalized people are at least 70 years old and may not survive.

Use UK as forecast

New COVID-19 cases in the UK peaked on December 30, 2021, about two weeks earlier than January 15 in the US.

If the UK is a harbinger of the future, the death toll could soon be reduced. The average number of new deaths in the UK appears to have peaked on January 25. If the UK is two weeks ahead of the US, then we can expect US COVID deaths to drop around February 8.

what does this mean to you

The worst of the Omicron wave may be over or fast approaching. Unvaccinated people are more likely to be hospitalized, so getting a COVID-19 vaccine series and booster vaccine is the best way to prevent serious illness.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may have updated information as you read this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.