COVID-19 deaths from the Omicron variant are climbing and will likely increase quickly in the upcoming weeks, according to new forecasts.
Based on national forecasts, 50,000 to 300,000 more Americans could die by the time the current wave subsides in March.
“A lot of people are still going to die because of how transmissible Omicron has been,” Jason Salemi, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida, told The Associated Press.
“It, unfortunately, is going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.
The 7-day average for daily new COVID-19 deaths has been increasing since mid-November, reaching nearly 1,900 on Tuesday, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. What’s more, COVID-19 deaths began rising among nursing home residents about 2 weeks ago, the AP reported.
Although the Omicron variant appears to cause milder disease, the high number of infections has led to more hospitalizations. If the higher end of the national forecast happens, the total number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths could surpass 1 million by early spring.
“Overall, you’re going to see more sick people, even if you as an individual have a lower chance of being sick,” Katriona Shea, PhD, an epidemiologist at Pennsylvania State University, told the AP.
Shea co-leads a team that assembles pandemic models through the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub and shares the projections with the White House. The forecast includes models from 11 universities across the country.
The upcoming wave of Omicron deaths will peak in early February, she said, and weekly deaths could exceed the peak from the Delta variant and the previous peak seen in January 2021.
The combined models project 1.5 million COVID-19 hospitalizations and 191,000 COVID-19 deaths from mid-December through mid-March. But due to uncertainty in the models, the deaths from the Omicron wave could range from 58,000 to 305,000.