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Omicron surge breaks national records

Omicron causing surge of hospitalization in young children


Last updated 1/10/2022 at 12:21pm

The latest surge of COVID-19 continues with daily new cases in the U.S. far surpassing records set in pervious surges as the hospitalization rate among young children increases.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in an update Friday that the U.S. saw 705,264 new cases Jan. 5, more than doubling the January 2021 peak.

The entire U.S., along with its territories, is experiencing high levels of community transmission, driven by the omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, which data suggests is far more easily spread than the delta variant, itself far more easily spread than the original strain of the virus.

Omicron is still being studied by the scientific community, and many have cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions about the new variant, but experts say early data suggests the variant is less-likely to cause serious illness or death.

Health officials, public and otherwise, have said this data also suggests that while Omicron is more likely to cause illness in vaccinated people than previous variants, the symptoms are far less serious and the risk of hospitalization and death is very low for vaccinated people.

The unvaccinated are in far more danger of being hospitalized or dying than vaccinated people and, despite increased breakthrough cases in vaccinated people, the unvaccinated still make up the majority of new cases in the U.S.

The CDC's update says the new variant's ease of transmission is also likely to increase the strain on hospitals and health care organizations across the U.S.

Experts point out that even with omicron seemingly causing less serious illness, resulting in a lower chance of hospitalization, the sheer number of people infected every day may well cause facilities to become overwhelmed again.

Officials from the CDC are also warning about a recent surge in children 4 and younger being hospitalized with COVID-19, bringing pediatric hospitalizations to their highest point since the beginning of the pandemic.

Children 4 and younger are the only age group that is still ineligible for any of the COVID-19 vaccines and data suggests this rise in hospitalizations is a result of the omicron surge.

Generally speaking, children are not at as high a risk for severe illness as older generations, but hospitalizations are on the rise as the sheer number of confirmed cases surges, and deaths among the young do still happen.

Where the surge goes from here is unclear, with some experts cautiously optimistic that this may be the peak for the U.S., while others have expressed concerns that this will not be the last major variant of the virus.

Regardless, the message from public health on the national-, state- and local-level has remained the same for the past year. Vaccination is the best way for people to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The vaccines for COVID-19 have remained effective at preventing hospitalization and death through out the pandemic and the rollout of boosters for the vaccines provide an extra layer of protection that drastically reduces the chances of people getting seriously ill.

Aside from vaccination, much of the same procedures are still recommended to slow the spread of the virus, including omicron. Wearing masks while in public areas is still a key way to slow the spread of - and reduce the chance of contracting - the virus, with recommended masks still effective at reducing the spread of the variants of the virus, including omicron.

Avoiding being in large groups of people outside of a person's household when possible will also reduce the chance of contracting the virus, as will regular handwashing and people covering their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their elbow.

While local numbers, and Montana generally, are generally a few weeks behind most of the U.S. in terms of when surges hit, the numbers are going up.

The update from the state for all of Montana this morning listed 1,939 new cases, up from 382 new cases two Mondays ago, with 7,713 active cases, up almost 6,000 from the 1,775 active cases Dec. 27.

The state has confirmed 8,744 new cases in the past two weeks.

Hill County Health Department did not provide an update after Wednesday night, when it reported 17 new cases and 54 active cases.

Blaine County reported Friday one new case with 10 active.

The state tracking map this morning reported 10 new cases in Chouteau County with 16 active and no new cases in Liberty County with seven active.

In Hill County, vaccinations and booster shots are available through Bullhook Community Health Center, 406-395-4305; the Hill County Health Department, 406-400-2415; Northern Montana Health Care's Specialty Medical Center at 406-265-7831 or its Family Medical Center at 406-265-5408; Western Drug Pharmacy, 406-265-9601; Gary & Leo's Pharmacy, which takes walk-ins; Walmart; and the Rocky Boy Health Center 406-395-4486.

The Blaine County Health Department, 406-357-2345, and the Fort Belknap Health Center, public health nurse 406-353-3250 and pharmacy at 406-353-3104, can schedule vaccinations and booster shots.

Vaccine is available in Chouteau County at the Chouteau County Health Department, 406-622-3771, and Big Sandy Pharmacy at 406-378-5588.

People can call Liberty County Health Department at 406-759-5517 to schedule a vaccination.


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