An updated projection model shows COVID-19 infections fueled by the Omicron variant are expected to surge dramatically in the coming weeks in the United States and across the world, though it is less likely to result in severe outcomes like hospitalizations and deaths than the Delta variant.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimated that over the course of the next three months, there could be 3 billion new COVID-19 infections worldwide.
Dr. Jagpreet Chhatwal, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the associate director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Institute for Technology Assessment, which also projects COVID-19 metrics, cautioned that trying to predict what may happen with the virus in the weeks ahead is “highly uncertain.”
New information emerges about COVID-19 every day, and while Omicron appears to be more transmissible than other variants, a complete picture of the variant is not yet clear. Additionally, human behavior factors into the how COVID-19 metrics will play out in real life, and those actions are impossible to predict.
However, the IMHE model’s projections are “not unreasonable,” Chhatwal said, but may be “on the higher side.” He wasn’t surprised by the degree to which infections in the US could potentially surge, he added.
Omicron has arrived at the “worst timing possible,” Chhatwal said, as people prepare to travel and see loved ones for the holidays, colder weather pushes gatherings inside where the virus can transmit more easily, and immunity from vaccines wanes, factors that will contribute to rising COVID infections over the next few months.
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