Omicron, the United Kingdom, and Hospitalization

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The best indicator for hospitalizations caused by the omicron variant in the US is the United Kingdom. There is still a narrative that the variant causes less significant disease, however it’s still to soon to make that call.

The default view of cases against hospitalization and ICU use isn’t very helpful to draw any conclusions.

Omicron represented only 9% of samples in the UK on 12/13. That date is marked by the vertical red line. This graph changes the scale and focuses on general hospitalizations in relation to cases. This suggests that most hospitalizations at this point were due to delta, which had been the dominant strain. It’s also been relatively clear through the pandemic that hospitalizations lag cases by 1-2 weeks in most places.

When changing to viewing cases against ICU beds, it’s also clear that there is a lag, but in this case it’s about 2-3 weeks, which would make sense. People are admitted to a regular floor and their condition declines, requiring ICU care.

This 1-week lag between hospitalization and ICU use when looking at the curves of the occupancy of each set on different scales, although delta did seem to show a bit of an exception to that in the UK, which can be seen in the data since summer.

The fact is that it’s simply too early to draw any conclusions on the severity of omicron using UK data. A clearer picture should be available for hospitalizations in about a week, and ICU use in about two.

In the meantime, the best thing to do is wear a N95 or similar mask, increase ventilation with fresh air, avoid indoor spaces with anyone outside of your household unless absolutely necessary, and get the full series of three vaccine doses.

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