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International Medical Corps COVID-19 Situation Report #43, January 19, 2022

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FAST FACTS

• According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which consolidates data from a range of sources, as of January 19, there have been 335,187,252 confirmed cases of COVID19 reported worldwide.

• In the US, we are supporting 43 hospitals across the country— including in California, Illinois, Massachusetts,
Michigan, New York, Puerto Rico and Texas— with a range of services and equipment, including emergency medical field units, supplies and volunteer staff.

• We have screened more than 7.9 million people for COVID-19 at our global missions and have distributed more than 32.5 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection prevention and control (IPC) items to supported health facilities.

• We have trained more than 29,000 frontline healthcare professionals on COVID-19 prevention and control measures.

Today, more than two years since SARS-COV-2 was first discovered in Wuhan, China, the world has endured more than 335 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 5.5 million confirmed deaths from the virus. Over the past month, caseloads have skyrocketed, with the last two weeks seeing more than twice as many daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 than ever before. This rising caseload is attributed to the Omicron variant—a highly contagious but less virulent variant of the virus.

Scientists are working rapidly to gather information about Omicron. Although the new variant is potentially four times more contagious than the original virus, it is much less likely to lead to hospitalization or death than previous variants. For example, a recent study that has not yet been peer-reviewed showed that the variant is 53% less likely to lead to hospitalization due to respiratory issues, 74% less likely to lead to ICU admission and 91% less likely to lead to death.

Omicron is also more likely to evade immunity from vaccination or previous infection. However, though existing vaccines are less effective against Omicron at preventing infection, they appear to provide strong protection against severe disease. Also, if the need arises, both Pfizer and Moderna claim they can have an Omicron-specific vaccine by March.

Though less virulent, Omicron still can overwhelm healthcare systems across the globe with a flood of new cases and could lead to a massive spike in deaths due to the sheer number of infections. For example, in the United States, there are currently a record number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. However, these statistics can be misleading, because many hospitalized COVID-19 patients are not hospitalized due to virus symptoms but are testing positive upon admission to the hospital for other causes. This leads to them being included in the national stats for COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Still, hospitals in Omicron hotspots have seen a considerable spike in people seeking treatment, leading to enormous burdens on healthcare systems. In the United States alone, models are showing between 50,000 and 300,000 additional confirmed COVID-19 deaths before the Omicron wave subsides.