The Latest on the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Omicron Variant

The rate of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 is decreasing rapidly in the United States, but an immense burden remains, and the nation’s health care workers are extremely tired under the stress.

According to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, for the first time in over a month, there are less than 100,000 hospital beds that are in use for patients infected with coronavirus across the nation. 

That’s approximately dropped by 38 percent from the past few weeks ago when hospitalizations reached a peak of over 160,000 beds in use at a time due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Despite the improving trends, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that it’s still too early to alter guidance and relax the restrictions that are imposed to prevent Covid-19 infections.

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On Wednesday, at a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing, she said hospitalizations are a vital barometer, particularly at the local level where decisions are taken.

She said “Cases and hospitalizations are falling. This is, of course, encouraging. And that leads us, of course, to have us look at all of our guidance based on the latest data and the science and what we know about the virus,” adding further “We’re, of course, taking a close look at this in real-time, and we’re evaluating rates of transmission as well as rates of severe outcomes as we look at updating and reviewing our guidance.”

She further said that there’s no “magic number”.

Washington Governor Lifts Outdoor Mask Mandate, Anticipates Broader Masking Announcements to Come Soon

At a press conference yesterday, Governor Jay Inslee announced that Washington’s outdoor mask requirement will be withdrawn on February 18.

Inslee stated that the state is stepping into a transition period since estimates indicate a “very steep decline” in Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations since statistics have already started moving downward. 

coronavirus pandemic and the omicron variantcoronavirus pandemic and the omicron variant
coronavirus pandemic and the omicron variant

Inslee stated it’s not time to remove the entire masking requirements yet and he intends to share more details following the collection of another week or so of data. 

The governor mentioned the state will proceed for a “safe transition” when it’s the proper time. 

Inslee said “The day to remove masks rapidly approaching,” adding further “I did not require masks for symbolism, I required them because they work. Now I believe we’re in a position to transition to a different state.”

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Here Are the States Lifting Mask Mandates Soon

A large number of states, from New York to California, have made the announcement this week about their intentions to withdraw indoor mask mandates in the upcoming days. A few others, such as Connecticut and New Jersey, are also lifting mask mandates in schools.

Here are the states removing mask mandates:

  • New York: Indoors, February 9
  • California: Indoors, February 15
  • Rhode Island: Indoors, February 11
  • Massachusetts: In schools, February 28
  • Delaware: Indoors, February 1 and in schools, March 31
  • New Jersey: In schools, March 7
  • Oregon: In schools, March 31
  • Connecticut: In schools, February 28
  • Illinois: Indoors, February 28
  • Washington: Outdoors, February 18

The White House has yet to update guidance on putting on masks for the general public but is requesting students, teachers, and parents to adhere to CDC guidelines when making decisions regarding wearing masks in schools, notwithstanding state rules.

On Tuesday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that this is not the correct time to alter the suggestions or relax the restrictions focused on the prevention of Covid-19.

Walensky said “Right now, we still have about 290,000 cases every single day, and our hospitalization rates now are higher than they even were at the peak of our Delta surge,” adding further “So at this moment — while we are looking ahead and planning, and we’ll continue to evaluate and follow the science — our recommendations are consistent with encouraging students to wear well-fitting masks.”

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