Former FDA chief says another ‘dramatically different’ virus strain is unlikely after Omicron – Sound Health and Lasting Wealth

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Covid infections are falling in the U.S. for the first time since the Omicron variant erupted at the end of 2021. The nation recorded 721,651 new cases on Monday, a steep fall from the 1.364 million cases reported last Monday. America’s new daily case average has also dropped 10 percent over the past seven days, from 766,939 to 684,457. 

A DailyMail.com analysis of Johns Hopkins University data found there were 717,874 new cases recorded between midnight Monday and midnight Tuesday. Monday is often the day when reported case counts are highest as lagging figures from the weekend are finally reported.

Last week’s 1.364 million cases recorded on Monday was the highest single day case total the nation ever recorded. This week’s total was affected by the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, where many local governments and municipalities were closed and did not fully report cases. It is likely that some cases shift to Tuesday this week instead.  

But Covid cases have been plunging for days in those states hardest hit by Omicron when it first arrived in the US in early December, suggesting the latest phase pandemic could really be drawing to a close. 

Recent trends in case growth, combined with the more mild nature of the Omicron variant compared to its predecessors, has many hopeful that Covid will soon become endemic. If it reaches endemic stage, humans will be able to live normal lives with controlled circulation of the virus – similar to the flu.

Dr Scott Gottlieb, former chief of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and current board member at Pfizer, told CNBC’s The Squawk Box that unless the virus dramatically shifts from its current state, it will likely enter an endemic state in the foreseeable future.

‘’I think the base case is that this signals the end of the pandemic phase of this virus,’ Gottlieb said.

In order for Covid to continue as a pandemic, another major shift in the virus’s nature would have to occur. He said that this type of dramatic shift would be unlikely, though it many experts did not see a highly transmissible, vaccine resistant, variant like Omicron emerging after Delta.

‘The worrisome scenario is that you get something that’s divergent evolution like Omicron did. Something that’s dramatically different than the variants that are circulating right now,’ he said. 

‘Most people think that’s unlikely to happen but most people felt that was unlikely to happen before and that Delta would be the dominant lineage, and then Omicron came along, it had been mutating in a sequestered pocket somewhere and re-emerged into the human circulation.’

Gottlieb’s comments come a day after Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned at a virtual even that a there is potential for a new strain of Covid to emerge that evades the natural immunity provided by previous Covid infection, putting the world even further away from the endemic stage.

New Covid infections in the U.S. have dropped by 10% over the past week, the first substantial decline of cases the nation has recorded in the New Year. Some of the drop could be attributed to case reporting lag caused by the Martin Luther King Jr. day holiday

Covid deaths increased 7% over the past week, a drop in growth when compared to the 20% jump in cases recorded over the previous seven-day spac

Covid cases are finally on the decline in New York. The Empire state was hit hard and fast by the Omicron variant last month, with cases jumping ten-fold in a matter of weeks. After peaking at 40,000 new cases per day in early January, the state is now recording a 27 percent decrease in new cases over the past two weeks. 

The state was once the leader in infection rate in the U.S., but has now fallen out of the top 15 states with 249 of every 100,000 residents testing positive for the virus daily. 

Neighboring New Jersey, which was also hit hard by the new variant, has seen a similar dip in its caseload. The Garden state has recorded a 28 percent drop in new cases over the past 14 days, the biggest drop of any state in America. Like New York, New Jersey experienced a massive seven-fold case increase when Omicron first arrived in the U.S. early last month. It seems that the surge is finally starting to burn out.

Others states that were once among the nationwide leaders in case growth are seeing daily cases start to slow as well, like Illinois, Maryland, Florida and Georgia.

Scientists in the US are hopeful that the same steep drop in cases seen in countries such as the United Kingdom and South Africa – where Omicron was first sequenced – will also be repeated here. 

In New York, where Omicron hit first, cases have dropped from a record high of 85,014 new infections on January 6, to 48,712 diagnoses on January 16

In New York, where Omicron hit first, cases have dropped from a record high of 85,014 new infections on January 6, to 48,712 diagnoses on January 16

Neighboring New Jersey, which was also hit hard by the new variant, has seen a similar sharp dip in its caseload, from a record 31,699 on January 7, to 19,771 on January 16

Neighboring New Jersey, which was also hit hard by the new variant, has seen a similar sharp dip in its caseload, from a record 31,699 on January 7, to 19,771 on January 16

In New York, where Omicron hit first, cases have dropped from a record high of 85,014 new infections on January 6, to 48,712 diagnoses on January 16. Neighboring New Jersey saw a similar sharp dip in its caseload, from a record 31,699 on January 7, to 19,771 on January 16

California recorded a record 11,6,004 new cases on January 11. But just five days later, cases have plunged to 72,399

California recorded a record 11,6,004 new cases on January 11. But just five days later, cases have plunged to 72,399

In Florida, the record of 78,449 cases seen on January 7 has sunk sharply to 40,848 infections on January 16

In Florida, the record of 78,449 cases seen on January 7 has sunk sharply to 40,848 infections on January 16

California recorded a record 11,6,004 new cases on January 11. But just five days later, cases have plunged to 72,399. In Florida, the record of 78,449 cases seen on January 7 has sunk sharply to 40,848 infections on January 16

In the UK, cases are continuing to decline after a massive surge struck the nation last month. The country recorded 84,429 new cases on Monday, and the daily case average has fallen to around the 100,000 mark – and will likely only fall further in the coming days.

South Africa is now recording less than 5,000 new COVID cases per day after reaching the heights of more than 23,000 per day only a few weeks ago.   

However, the emergence of Omicron, there is potential for a new variant to emerge in the future that can bypass the natural immunity provided by infection from the new strain.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease, told the Davos Agenda virtual event Monday that ‘natural vaccination’ – or immunity via previous infection – might not be as effective as some believe. 

He says that even if Omicron – which has caused a massive surge in new cases worldwide but is not as severe or deadly as its predecessors – is the final strain of COVID, it will likely become endemic, meaning the outbreak becomes predictable.  

His warning runs counter to the positive predictions coming from some officials in the UK who believe that the virus could have a ‘flu-type’ relationship with people by the end of the year based on its current spread.

‘I would hope that that’s the case. But that would only be the case if we don’t get another variant that eludes the immune response of the prior variant,’ Fauci said. 

In the UK, cases are continuing to decline after a massive surge struck the nation last month. The country recorded 84,429 new cases on Monday, and the daily case average has fallen to around the 100,000 mark - and will likely only fall further in the coming days

In the UK, cases are continuing to decline after a massive surge struck the nation last month. The country recorded 84,429 new cases on Monday, and the daily case average has fallen to around the 100,000 mark - and will likely only fall further in the coming days

In the UK, cases are continuing to decline after a massive surge struck the nation last month. The country recorded 84,429 new cases on Monday, and the daily case average has fallen to around the 100,000 mark – and will likely only fall further in the coming days

Dr Anthony Fauci (pictured) warned that even if Omicron - which has caused a massive surge in new cases worldwide but is not as severe or deadly as its predecessors - is the final strain of COVID, it will likely become endemic

Dr Anthony Fauci (pictured) warned that even if Omicron - which has caused a massive surge in new cases worldwide but is not as severe or deadly as its predecessors - is the final strain of COVID, it will likely become endemic

Dr Anthony Fauci (pictured) warned that even if Omicron – which has caused a massive surge in new cases worldwide but is not as severe or deadly as its predecessors – is the final strain of COVID, it will likely become endemic

Fauci has previously made grim projections about new COVID variants, and was ultimately proven correct about a variant like Omicron emerging. 

In August, when the Delta variant was first rising in the US, Fauci warned that with transmission of Covid so rampant it was likely that a vaccine resistant variant would eventually emerge.

Months later, than variant did come about, when South African health officials discovered the highly infectious Omicron variant in late November.

He fears that there is a chance another variant emerges that has mutated in a way that allows it to get around protection provided by recovering from Omicron. 

COVID becoming endemic as a result of Omicron has become a common theory among health experts and officials, and has served as a beacon of hope for the population suffering through the recent surge.

Omicron is burning through people so quickly, causing daily COVID cases to hit records almost everywhere in the world, that it could soon run out of people to infect. 

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Omicron accounts for 98 percent of active cases in the US, almost entirely pushing out the much more severe Delta variant.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Omicron accounts for 98 percent of active cases in the US, almost entirely pushing out the much more severe Delta variant

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Omicron accounts for 98 percent of active cases in the US, almost entirely pushing out the much more severe Delta variant

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Omicron accounts for 98 percent of active cases in the US, almost entirely pushing out the much more severe Delta variant

Add that COVID booster shots have been found to be effective against the variant and the number of people left for the variant to infect is quickly running out.

Once it does burn out, infections will continue at a lower rate, and due to the mild nature of the variant and regular availability of vaccines in the developed world it should be possible to control the virus. 

Fauci said reaching that level is what would be needed for COVID to be shifted from a pandemic to endemic.

‘Control means you have it present but it is present at a level that does not disrupt society,’ he said. ‘That’s my definition of what endemicity would mean.’ 

At this point, life would basically be back to normal. Lockdown measures, masking and vaccine mandates would no longer be needed even though the virus is still circulating.

‘It’s not going to be that you’ll eliminate this disease completely. But hopefully, it will be at such a low level that it doesn’t disrupt our normal social, economic and other interactions with each other,’ Fauci said. 

‘To me, that’s what the new normal is.’ 

Whether Covid develops into an endemic or not is still in the air, but in the short term, America’s Covid situation is starting to look better by the day.

Declining case growth nationwide is providing even more evidence that the Omicron-fueled surge is starting to reach its peak. While the MLK day holiday also affected case change counts as well, many states were already trending downwards.

Two-week case averages are generally the most stable figures and can smooth out single day outliers. Over the past 14 days, overall cases in the U.S. are up 40 percent, though that figure is expected to decline further in the coming days as many previous Covid hotspots in the U.S. are now seeing case counts trend in the right direction.

As of Tuesday morning, Johns Hopkins reports that the U.S. has logged 66,456,516 cases and 851,730 deaths since the pandemic first began. That means there has been one reported Covid case for every five Americans so far – with the figure likely being even higher due to the mass underreporting of cases and test shortages that have been a problem during different waves of the pandemic. 

Georgia, once one of the states leading the south in Covid case growth – mainly fueled by outbreaks in the greater Atlanta area – is now only recording an 18 percent increase in cases over the past two weeks. The Peach state has also dropped all the way to into the bottom five states in infection rate, with only 159 of every 100,000 residents testing positive for the virus every day. 

Maryland is also among the states with the lowest infection rate in America. The state is recording 155 cases per every 100,000 residents, the fourth lowest mark in the U.S. Maryland was among the case leaders earlier this month, but a 21 percent decline in cases over the past two weeks has turned the state’s Covid situation around.

Outbreaks in the Chicago area placed Illinois among the U.S. leaders in case growth earlier this month as well, but the city, and state as a whole, are now showing signs that the Omicron variant is starting to burn out their as well.

Cook county, which includes Chicago, was recording just under 10,000 cases per day as of January 14 – the last time it reported cases – a near 25 percent decrease from the 13,000 cases it was recording as of January 9.

Cases in the state are up 28 percent over the past two weeks, though that figure has massively declined in recent days, and is likely to drop further as the variant continues to run out of people to infect. 

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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