Covid deaths are lower during the Omicron wave than the Delta wave despite a 400% increase in cases

Omicron really is less deadly than Delta or prior COVID variants, new CDC research has confirmed, with deaths down 45 per cent compared to winter 2020, despite the US seeing its highest-ever number of infections. 

An analysis revealed that despite total cases being 386 percent higher during Omicron than during Delta, deaths actually dropped 3.6 percent compared to during the prior variant. And the difference in mortality rates was even more pronounced when compared to last winter’s surge. The rate of cases is 219 percent higher during Omicron, but deaths are down a whopping 45 percent.

The data adds to the growing evidence that the Omicron variant, which makes up 99 percent of new cases in the U.S., is far more infectious, but nowhere near as lethal as previous versions of the virus.  

Researchers at the CDC still warn that the amount of deaths being caused by the virus is still worrisome, and that Americans should get vaccinated and take other basic precautions.

CDC researchers found that despite large surges in cases and hospitalizations during the Omicron Covid wave when compared to last winter’s and the Delta wave, deaths did not follow. Daily Covid deaths were actually 4% lower this winter than they were last at the virus’s peak

‘COVID-19 disease severity appears to be lower during the Omicron period than during previous periods of high transmission, likely related to higher vaccination coverage, which reduces disease severity, lower virulence of the Omicron variant, and infection-acquired immunity,’ researchers wrote.

They gathered data from three hospital surveillance systems in the U.S. to compare data across the three largest waves of the pandemic so far.

The highest weekly totals from each week were compared across a variety of metrics like cases, deaths, hospitalizations, and percentage of hospital beds used for Covid patients.

At its peak, the CDC logged 798,976 daily cases for the Omicron wave, well beyond the 250,335 daily cases recorded during the peak of last winter’s wave, and the 164,249 cases at the peak of the Delta wave.

Hospitalizations were higher as well. During Omicron, a peak of 21,586 people were hospitalized with the virus, compared to 16,497 at the peak of last winter, and 12,285 over summer. 

This surge’s hospitalization numbers could be misleading, though. Because of the high prevalence of the virus and rampant transmission combined with relatively mild symptoms, many people are carrying the virus without knowing.

Many people are tested for Covid when they go to a hospital for any reason, whether an emergency situation or routine treatment.

A person who tests positive in that case would still be added to the list of Covid hospitalizations despite not having a severe enough case that requires hospitalization.

Health officials in Massachusetts, for example, revealed data last week that half of the nearly 3,200 ‘Covid patients’ hospitalized in the state were actually there for another reason. 

This means that the officially reported hospitalization numbers for Omicron may be significantly higher than the actual number of people whose infection was severe enough to require serious treatment.

By the official figures, though, hospitalizations during Omicron are up 31 percent compared to last winter and 76 percent compared to the Delta wave.

‘[The data] underscores the importance of national emergency preparedness, specifically, hospital surge capacity and the ability to adequately staff local health care systems,’ researchers wrote.

Although both hospitalizations and deaths significantly increased during the Omicron-fueled surge, deaths actually managed to decrease.

Last winters Covid surge is still the deadliest, as cases soared to over a quarter-million per day before the vaccine was widely available.

Without those additional vaccine fighting antibodies, many succumbed to the virus, reaching a peak of 3,422 deaths per day, according to the CDC report. 

Delta never reached the heights of the winter surge, as by then the vaccines were widely available in the U.S. The summer wave peaked at 1,924 deaths on a daily basis.

Omicron deaths remain in line with the Delta surge despite the case peak reaching heights three times as high.  

The CDC research team logged 1,854 deaths per day at the peak of Omicron, down 3.6 percent from Delta and 46 percent from last winter.

While Omicron’s mortality rate may be lower, researchers still warn it can be deadly, and that over 1,800 deaths per day is nothing to scoff at.

‘The average daily number of deaths remains substantial,’ they wrote.

‘… Being up to date on vaccination and following other recommended prevention strategies are critical to preventing infections, severe illness, or death from COVID-19.’