The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

U.S. approaches new records as experts debate which numbers are most important

A covid-19 mobile testing site in Miami on Thursday. (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg)
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As the United States hurtled toward new coronavirus pandemic records on Thursday, experts debated the utility of some long-standing metrics to measure the impact of covid-19.

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In recent weeks, the omicron variant has spurred an explosion in new virus cases, smashing old daily highs. On Thursday, the seven-day average of new cases surpassed 600,000 for the first time, according to Washington Post tracking. But because omicron appears to cause less severe illness while also being ultra-contagious, some of the nation’s leading experts have said the more important statistic is covid-19 hospitalizations.

In recent days, however, evidence has emerged that overall hospitalization data may not tell a straightforward story, either. Hospitals across the country have reported key differences in this latest surge of patients. In some facilities, a large share of positive patients were initially admitted for other maladies and their covid infections were discovered incidentally. Some, including New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, have said hospitals should report how many patients are hospitalized for their covid symptoms vs. those whose infections are secondary.

Here’s what to know

  • Six former health advisers to President Biden’s transition team released a series of journal articles on Thursday, criticizing the federal response and calling for a “new normal” in the nation’s approach to fighting the virus.
  • The omicron variant represented 95 percent of all U.S. coronavirus cases for the week ending Jan. 1, according to the CDC. This chart shows how fast the variant is spreading around the world.
  • Global coronavirus infections have reached a pandemic high, with 9.5 million new cases reported last week, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
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