The number of patients with Covid-19 in U.S. hospitals surpassed last winter’s peak over the weekend and the country reported another single-day record of nearly 1.5 million new cases on Monday, January 11, 2022, two grim milestones as the nation’s health system grapples with the extremely contagious omicron variant.
There were 144,441 Americans hospitalized with the virus as of Sunday, above the prior high mark of 142,315 patients recorded about a year ago on Jan. 14, according to data tracked by the Department of Health and Human Services, and the count has climbed to 147,000 as of Tuesday.
The country also reported roughly 1.5 million new cases on Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, pushing the seven-day average to 754,000 new cases per day.
To be sure, a large portion of Covid hospitalizations appear to stem from people admitted for other reasons who test positive for the virus once they’re in a facility. And while hospitalizations are the highest on record, HHS didn’t start collecting the data until August 2020 so it doesn’t capture the first early surge of cases that spring.
The daily tally of confirmed infections is also likely artificially high since many states report their weekend Covid testing data on Mondays.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Monday that about half of the city’s hospitalizations are people hospitalized with Covid as opposed to for Covid, for example, and a Monday press release from the New York State Department of Health reported 42% of the state’s hospitalized patients were admitted for something other than Covid. National data isn’t available since most states don’t track that level of detail in their cases.
The number of cases is also likely being undercounted due to the availability of at-home test kits for which results are typically not reported to state or federal agencies.
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week that a growing body of evidence indicates the Covid omicron variant is less severe than the delta strain. More data is needed to confirm that, he said, cautioning that the sheer volume of infections and hospitalized people could still strain hospital systems.
“A certain proportion of a large volume of cases, no matter what, is going to be severe,” Fauci said. “So don’t take this as a signal that we can pull back from the recommendations.”
Infections are on the rise in nearly every part of the country and average daily case counts are at record highs in 28 states as of Monday. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia are reporting a record level of current hospitalizations, according to a CNBC analysis of HHS data that dates back to the summer of 2020.
“There is a lot of infection around the country right now, and, at the end of this, probably 30% to 40% of the U.S. population will have been infected by omicron,” former FDA commissioner, Pfizer board member, and CNBC contributor Scott Gottlieb, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday.