Almost nine million Americans called in sick with Covid during the first two weeks of the year, new data has revealed.
The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey that was released on Wednesday showed that 8.8 million people missed work because of Covid between 29 December and 10 January.
Three million called in sick because of reasons related to Covid-19 between 1 and 13 December, 65 per cent fewer than at the beginning of the new year after the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus had been spreading around the country.
It’s unclear how many out of the 8.8 million had to stay home because of symptomatic disease compared to simply testing positive for the virus or coming in close contact with an infectious person.
On 3 January, 14 per cent of the 35,00-strong workforce of the New York Police Department called in sick. Nearly 2,000 employees had Covid-19, while 3,000 staffers had flu-like symptoms prompting them to stay home.
The virus hit the city’s fire department in a similar fashion that same day, with 11,000 firefighters calling in sick, the New York Post reported.
Johns Hopkins University data has shown that new Covid-19 cases have dropped by 53 per cent since 10 January, when 1.4 million infections were registered.
On Thursday, the university recorded 644,814 cases and 2,479 deaths.
The number of new daily cases are decreasing quickly, especially in the northeastern parts of the US that were hit hard and fast by the Omicron variant. Infections are still on the rise in the Midwest and in the South, but the pace of the rise has started to slow down in the last few weeks, according to the fresh figures.
The number of deaths, which tends to correspond to the number of cases from three weeks previously, are still increasing in the US. The current average number of daily fatalities stands at 1,950.
At the beginning of January, the average number of daily deaths was 1,300. At the same time a year ago, when most Americans were not yet vaccinated, that figure was 3,300.
Hospitalisations also drag behind cases as an indicator of where the pandemic is going. On Wednesday, the US hit a record high with 152,555 people in hospital. Over the course of the last week, the number of hospitalisations has grown steadier at around 150,000.
“If you look at the history of infectious diseases, we’ve only eradicated one infectious disease in man, and that’s smallpox. That’s not going to happen with this virus,” the Chief Medical Adviser to the President, Dr Anthony Fauci, said during the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda on Monday.
“But hopefully it will be at such a low level that it doesn’t disrupt our normal social, economic, and other interactions,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases added.
“I think that’s what most people feel when they talk about endemicity, where it is integrated into the broad range of infectious diseases that we experience,” he said, adding that it’s too early to see the current surge in cases will push the disease to the sidelines as it becomes easier to control.
“That would only be the case if we don’t get another variant that eludes the immune response to the prior variant,” Dr Fauci said.