FORT WORTH, Texas — The top COVID question for just about anyone is the same: When will the pandemic end?
Models from across the country appear to point the current Omicron-driven wave peaking in the next week for the East Coast with hospitalizations dropping in the following weeks. In previous waves, Texas has trailed the country by roughly two weeks.
The CDC’s latest model appears to show hospitalizations increasing dramatically until the end of January and then beginning to fall.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington points to nationwide COVID-19 hospitalizations increasing by roughly 100,000 and peaking Jan. 25.
“It started snowballing. We started seeing these chains of infections,” Dr. Diana Cervantes, an epidemiology professor at UNTHSC said.
Cervantes said while cases are currently surging, she’s optimistic about the future.
“We’re actually in a really good spot because we have really effective vaccines,” she said. “We have great treatments.”
In Britain, hospitalizations from its Omicron wave have shown slight decreases in recent days.
Before North Texas can turn the corner on COVID, though, the current surge, which is already forcing some hospitals to cut back on elective procedures and is overwhelming strained staff, is expected to get much worse.
UT Southwestern’s COVID-19 model predicts North Texas to roughly double previous records for hospitalizations by the end of January. The state is averaging more than 40,000 total COVID cases per day while 4 in 10 tests taken are positive.
“If we look at the hospitalizations, if we look at the deaths, those are people who unfortunately did not get vaccinated,” Cervantes said.
Last year, unvaccinated Texans died at 40 times the rate of those fully vaccinated according to a review of vaccination and death records by Texas state health officials.
The most recent data from the CDC showed unvaccinated adults being hospitalized at more than 17 times the level of vaccinated adults.
“This is something that we’re going to always deal with for many years to come unfortunately,” Cervantes said.
Living with it doesn’t mean surrendering to it. According to CDC data, 1,600 Americans died from COVID every day last week.
By contrast, the US averages around 100 deaths per day.
More than 86% of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccine production is expected to increase enough to cover 70% of the world’s population by the middle of 2022.
While vaccinations are expected to increase, new, effective COVID pills and treatments should see production increase. Pfizer says it will produce 120 million courses of its new COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid, by the end of 2022. Studies found the pill to reduce hospitalization risk by nearly 90%.
While COVID-19 trends are expected to improve dramatically in the next two months, it’s not yet time to give up the protective measures that have worked.
“Remember the three ‘Cs": Avoid crowds, avoiding those cramped confined spaces, avoiding that close contact when we know that there is a lot of illness and transmission going on,” Cervantes said.
Get tested, wear a mask and stop waiting to get vaccinated and the answer to "when will this finally end" could become "sooner than you think."