The omicron variant has caused case numbers to spike higher than ever before, but doctors say there could be a silver lining.
Doctors say because of the number of home tests that never get reported, the number of cases is actually higher than what is documented by the state. Many are wondering if there's an end in sight.
The omicron variant is spreading like wildfire across the U.S. Dr. Andy Pekosz, with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said he's hopeful the surge will peak in 10 to 14 days, but it’s hard to predict.
"The real issue is we have a lot more unvaccinated people in this country than what we've seen in other countries that have had omicron surges, and so that's the real variable that's going to impact when we see a peak and how long this surge lasts," Pekosz said.
The United States reported more than 700,000 new cases Wednesday, setting a single-day world record. Hospitalizations are also skyrocketing, but there's a flip side of so much infection.
"We may actually be at a place in the COVID-19 pandemic where the omicron variant is really the one that's sort of pushing us over that hurdle of population immunity," Pekosz said.
He said COVID-19 might transition into a seasonal illness like the flu, and it will continue to mutate. Other variants can emerge, but natural immunity coupled with effective vaccines will likely prevent a major impact.
"I really think the scenario that's most likely right now is we'll have to deal with mild cases of COVID-19 going forward. The virus will change like seasonal influenza does from year to year,” Pekosz said. ”We may see increases in cases but we won't be seeing those really big spikes in hospitalizations like we're seeing right now."
For those who are vaccinated and not at high risk. Pekosz said it does seem to be a milder infection, but there are vulnerable populations that we need to protect. He stresses it’s important to limit the spread, but this might ultimately be the first rays of light at the end of the tunnel.
"When we come out of this surge we're probably going to be in a very, very good place when it comes to our immunity and being able to fight off future surges," Pekosz said.
If COVID-19 turns into a seasonal disease, Pekosz said they don't know if we'd need to get a booster every year as we do for the flu, because the mRNA vaccines are so much more effective.