In a White House press briefing on Wednesday, January 12, Jeff Zients, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, noted that the Omicron variant is driving unprecedented demand for testing, therefore the White House is taking steps to ensure school leaders have the support they need to meet that demand in order to keep in-person learning in schools.
“We’re taking additional actions, including sending 5 million free rapid tests to schools each month and providing another 5 million lab-based tests each month. These 10 million additional tests available each month will allow schools to double the volume of testing they were performing in November”, he said.
In the same briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported that the current seven-day daily average of cases is about 751,000 cases per day, an increase of about 47 percent over the previous week. The seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 19,800 per day, an increase of about 33 percent over the prior week. And the seven-day average of daily deaths are about 1,600 per day, which is an increase of about 40 percent over the previous week. Over the past several weeks, we have seen the number of daily cases increase substantially. The magnitude of this increase is largely related to the Omicron variant, which now represents about 98 percent of the COVID-19 cases in the country.
While we are seeing early evidence that Omicron is less severe than Delta and that those infected are less likely to require hospitalization, it’s important to note that Omicron continues to be much more transmissible than Delta. The sudden and steep rise in cases due to Omicron is resulting in unprecedented daily case counts, sickness, absenteeism, and strains on our healthcare system.
The risk of hospitalization remains low, especially among people who are up to date on their COVID vaccines. However, the staggering rise in cases — over 1 million new cases each day — has led to a high number of total hospitalizations. As we see hospitals and health systems caring for more and more patients in the midst of staffing challenges and faced with a highly transmissible virus that does not spare our healthcare workers, we must do — all of us do our part to protect our hospitals and our neighbors and reduce the further spread of this virus.
Also noted, the purchase of another 600,000 treatment courses of GlaxoSmithKline’s monoclonal antibody treatment which means the U.S. will have more than 1 million total treatment courses through the end of March. Lastly, the White House is also in the process of ordering another half-million doses of AstraZeneca’s preventive therapy for immunocompromised individuals. The federal government was instrumental in the research and development of this product, and our latest order will also bring us to over 1 million doses available through end of March.