(CNN)As the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread across the US this holiday season, the rate of daily Covid-19 cases detected has eclipsed those fueled by the Delta variant over the summer.

Covid-19 hospitalizations remain relatively lower than peaks earlier this year, yet the situation may worsen as tens of millions of Americans remain unvaccinated, putting them at higher risk for complications and death. Health and government officials have been warning that the Omicron variant threatens to overwhelm hospitals and health care workers. “Although hospitalizations may be less, that doesn’t mean zero. There are many places in the country where hospitalizations now are increasing,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Friday. What to do when those around you are not wearing masks? An expert weighs in about Christmas travelWhat to do when those around you are not wearing masks? An expert weighs in about Christmas travelWhat to do when those around you are not wearing masks? An expert weighs in about Christmas travelMore than 69,000 Americans were hospitalized with Covid-19 on Christmas Eve, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. An increase of around 2% from last week, the figure remains below peak hospitalizations during the Delta surge and is half of the record-high from January. Read MoreBut experts note that hospitalization figures tend to lag with time as some illnesses worsen, and researchers are still working to determine whether Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness. Twelve states have seen at least a 10% uptick in Covid-19 hospitalizations over the past week compared to the previous, HHS data shows. That’s happening against the backdrop of a 48% increase in Covid-19 cases from last week, bringing the US average for new daily cases to 182,682, according to Johns Hopkins University. Case numbers surpassing the summer surge is a sobering indication of Omicron’s spread, as it quickly became the most prevalent variant in the US this week. And as Covid-19 testing shortages led to long lines in many metro areas before Christmas, some pockets of the country are reporting surges.Finding a Covid-19 test is a struggle right now in the US as Omicron and holiday plans collideFinding a Covid-19 test is a struggle right now in the US as Omicron and holiday plans collideFinding a Covid-19 test is a struggle right now in the US as Omicron and holiday plans collideCovid-19 cases in Los Angeles County have nearly tripled in the last week, reaching 9,998 new cases for its about 10 million residents, public health data shows. Hospitalizations, however, have remained steady. New York state broke its own daily record of Covid-19 cases on Friday, when it reported 44,431 new cases — a 14% increase from Thursday. “This is not a surprise,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “This is a very, very contagious variant.”Hospitalizations in the state are also rising — but at a lower rate. Friday data showed that 4,744 New Yorkers were receiving Covid-19 treatment at hospitals, marking an uptick of 4.6% from Thursday. Hundreds of Christmas Day flights canceled The spread of the Omicron variant can also be partially blamed for hundreds of flight cancellations during the Christmas holiday when millions of Americans travel to gather with family and friends. As of 12:30 a.m. ET on Christmas Day, Delta Air Lines canceled 268 flights, and United Airlines saw 196 cancellations, according to the tracking website FlightAware. And while weather may have been a culprit prompting the cancellations, Delta and United have acknowledged they have struggled with staffing due to the Omicron variant. “Upwards of 150 cancels per day are expected both Saturday and Sunday,” Delta said in a statement Friday.JetBlue Airways on Christmas Day morning also canceled 120 flights, accounting for 12% of their scheduled trips, according to FlightAware.People scramble to get free Covid-19 test kits distributed by the city in Brooklyn, New York, December 24.People scramble to get free Covid-19 test kits distributed by the city in Brooklyn, New York, December 24. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise People scramble to get free Covid-19 test kits distributed by the city in Brooklyn, New York, December 24.Hide Caption 1 of 19Maia Goodell receives a Covid-19 test in Times Square on Thursday, December 23, in New York City. Maia Goodell receives a Covid-19 test in Times Square on Thursday, December 23, in New York City. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise Maia Goodell receives a Covid-19 test in Times Square on Thursday, December 23, in New York City. Hide Caption 2 of 19Travelers wait in a TSA security checkpoint line at Orlando International Airport, December 23.Travelers wait in a TSA security checkpoint line at Orlando International Airport, December 23. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise Travelers wait in a TSA security checkpoint line at Orlando International Airport, December 23.Hide Caption 3 of 19A health care worker hands out a test kit at a testing site in Riverside, California, on December 21.A health care worker hands out a test kit at a testing site in Riverside, California, on December 21. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise A health care worker hands out a test kit at a testing site in Riverside, California, on December 21.Hide Caption 4 of 19In this aerial view, cars line up at a testing site at Tropical Park in Miami on December 21.In this aerial view, cars line up at a testing site at Tropical Park in Miami on December 21. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise In this aerial view, cars line up at a testing site at Tropical Park in Miami on December 21.Hide Caption 5 of 19At Boston's Logan Airport, travelers line up for Covid-19 testing on December 20. At Boston's Logan Airport, travelers line up for Covid-19 testing on December 20. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise At Boston’s Logan Airport, travelers line up for Covid-19 testing on December 20. Hide Caption 6 of 19A healthcare worker signals she is ready to distribute free at-home Covid-19 testing kit at a vaccination in Philadelphia on December, 21.A healthcare worker signals she is ready to distribute free at-home Covid-19 testing kit at a vaccination in Philadelphia on December, 21. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise A healthcare worker signals she is ready to distribute free at-home Covid-19 testing kit at a vaccination in Philadelphia on December, 21.Hide Caption 7 of 19People wait in a line around the block to receive free at-home rapid Covid-19 test kits in Philadelphia on December 20.People wait in a line around the block to receive free at-home rapid Covid-19 test kits in Philadelphia on December 20. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise People wait in a line around the block to receive free at-home rapid Covid-19 test kits in Philadelphia on December 20.Hide Caption 8 of 19Registered nurse Bryan Hofilena attaches stickers on a body bag of a patient who died of coronavirus at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles December 14.Registered nurse Bryan Hofilena attaches stickers on a body bag of a patient who died of coronavirus at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles December 14. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise Registered nurse Bryan Hofilena attaches stickers on a body bag of a patient who died of coronavirus at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles December 14.Hide Caption 9 of 19People line up to be tested for Covid-19 at a testing booth in New York December 17.People line up to be tested for Covid-19 at a testing booth in New York December 17. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise People line up to be tested for Covid-19 at a testing booth in New York December 17.Hide Caption 10 of 19Radio City Music Hall is seen December 17. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/18/us/rockettes-christmas-spectacular-canceled/index.html" target="_blank">The 'Christmas Spectacular'</a> has been canceled due to a sweeping Covid-19 surge in New York.Radio City Music Hall is seen December 17. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/18/us/rockettes-christmas-spectacular-canceled/index.html" target="_blank">The 'Christmas Spectacular'</a> has been canceled due to a sweeping Covid-19 surge in New York. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise Radio City Music Hall is seen December 17. The ‘Christmas Spectacular’ has been canceled due to a sweeping Covid-19 surge in New York.Hide Caption 11 of 19Drivers wait in line to be tested for Covid-19 at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium parking lot in San Juan, Puerto Rico, December 18.Drivers wait in line to be tested for Covid-19 at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium parking lot in San Juan, Puerto Rico, December 18. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise Drivers wait in line to be tested for Covid-19 at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium parking lot in San Juan, Puerto Rico, December 18.Hide Caption 12 of 19Travelers wait in a line for a security check December 10, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.Travelers wait in a line for a security check December 10, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise Travelers wait in a line for a security check December 10, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.Hide Caption 13 of 19President Joe Biden meets with members of the Covid-19 Response Team at the White House in Washington, DC, December 16.President Joe Biden meets with members of the Covid-19 Response Team at the White House in Washington, DC, December 16. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise President Joe Biden meets with members of the Covid-19 Response Team at the White House in Washington, DC, December 16.Hide Caption 14 of 19A sign indicating canceled performances hangs at the front entrance of 'Hamilton' at the Richard Rodgers Theatre December 16, in New York City. A sign indicating canceled performances hangs at the front entrance of 'Hamilton' at the Richard Rodgers Theatre December 16, in New York City. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise A sign indicating canceled performances hangs at the front entrance of ‘Hamilton’ at the Richard Rodgers Theatre December 16, in New York City. Hide Caption 15 of 19A healthcare worker administers a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a person at Tropical Park in Miami December 16.A healthcare worker administers a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a person at Tropical Park in Miami December 16. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise A healthcare worker administers a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a person at Tropical Park in Miami December 16.Hide Caption 16 of 19Travelers prepare to get off an American Airlines flight at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, DC, December 18.  Travelers prepare to get off an American Airlines flight at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, DC, December 18.  Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise Travelers prepare to get off an American Airlines flight at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, DC, December 18. Hide Caption 17 of 19A nurse collects a nasal swab sample from a traveler at a Covid-19 testing site at the Los Angeles International Airport December 10.A nurse collects a nasal swab sample from a traveler at a Covid-19 testing site at the Los Angeles International Airport December 10. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise A nurse collects a nasal swab sample from a traveler at a Covid-19 testing site at the Los Angeles International Airport December 10.Hide Caption 18 of 19Cars line up at a drive-through Covid-19 testing site at Tropical Park December 17, in Miami.Cars line up at a drive-through Covid-19 testing site at Tropical Park December 17, in Miami. Photos: US Covid-19 cases on the rise Cars line up at a drive-through Covid-19 testing site at Tropical Park December 17, in Miami.Hide Caption 19 of 191224 coronavirus test distribution01 coronavirus US 1223holiday travel 1223 orlando RESTRICTED13 covid omicron unf restricted16 covid omicron unf14 covid omicron unf restricted15 covid omicron unfphilidelphia covid testing line 1220 01 covid omicron unf11 covid omicron unf02 covid omicron unf RESTRICTED03 covid omicron unf04 covid omicron unf05 covid omicron unf RESTRICTED06 covid omicron unf07 covid omicron unf08 covid omicron unf09 covid omicron unf10 covid omicron unfIsolation periods shortened The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday a shortening of the isolation period for health care workers who test positive for Covid-19. As long as they are asymptomatic and later test negative, the timeframe away can decrease from ten days to seven.”That isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages,” the CDC said in a statement, pointing to surging Covid-19 cases due to Omicron.Deflated health care workers and desperate patients clash over alternative Covid treatmentsDeflated health care workers and desperate patients clash over alternative Covid treatmentsDeflated health care workers and desperate patients clash over alternative Covid treatmentsThe agency also recommended that health care workers do not need to quarantine “following high-risk exposures” to the virus if they are vaccinated and boosted. Quarantine refers to those who were exposed but not diagnosed with an infection, while isolation refers to those who test positive. Meanwhile, New York state on Friday launched a more expansive isolation policy, which allows fully vaccinated essential workers who test positive for Covid-19 to return to work after five days if they present no symptoms and have had no fever for 72 hours, the governor said. Hochul didn’t explicitly define who is considered an essential worker, but she explained that it includes those who work in healthcare, sanitation, grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants. CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen said Friday that she supports the new isolation rules. “I think it’s really important for us to do this, because at this point we’re facing a potential collapse of our essential infrastructure,” Wen said. “This is the reason why for health care workers it’s so important that we preserve the ability of our hospitals to function — but also transit and grocery stores coming into this holiday season. And so many other essential workplaces may actually have a critical shortage of workers.” Preventable hospitalizations cost billions, estimate findsAs hospitals and health officials prepare for Omicron, additional research is being performed analyzing earlier stages of the pandemic.During the Delta surge that began over the summer, there were about 690,000 preventable Covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States that cost nearly $14 billion dollars, according to new estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation.About 1.2 million hospital admissions were recorded between June and November 2021, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. For their analysis, KFF used data from the CDC to estimate that 85% of those hospitalizations were among unvaccinated. There's a new drug to prevent Covid-19, but there won't be nearly enough for Americans who are eligibleThere's a new drug to prevent Covid-19, but there won't be nearly enough for Americans who are eligibleThere's a new drug to prevent Covid-19, but there won't be nearly enough for Americans who are eligibleHospitalizations for which Covid-19 was not the primary cause were excluded, as well as those that could not have been prevented by vaccines as they are not 100% effective. Using various studies, KFF estimated the average hospitalization to cost about $20,000 and preventable Covid-19 hospitalizations totaling $13.8 billion dollars over the course of six months.”The monetary cost of treating unvaccinated people for Covid-19 is borne not only by patients but also by society more broadly, including taxpayer-funded public programs and private insurance premiums paid by workers, businesses, and individual purchasers,” the analysts wrote.”Though there was of course a societal cost to develop and distribute vaccinations, the vaccines save the US health system money in the longer run by preventing costly hospitalizations.”

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https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/25/health/us-coronavirus-saturday/index.html

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