Omicron poses a “substantially reduced risk” of serious illness compared to Delta — and is more than 90 percent less likely to kill those infected, according to a federally funded study.
The study, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Wednesday, said it proved “compelling evidence of an intrinsically less severe infection” from the variant that currently accounts for 90 percent of cases in the US.
The evaluation of more than 70,000 infected Californians saw those with Omicron less than half as likely to need hospitalization as those with Delta — and about 75 percent less likely to need intensive care.
Those hospitalized also needed to stay approximately 70 percent less time, with a median treatment time of 1.5 days compared to five days for those with the previous dominant variant.
Even though the study looked at three times as many people with Omicron, none of them needed to go on a ventilator in the hospital — compared to 11 in the far smaller group with Delta.
Most encouragingly, just one of the 52,297 people infected with Omicron died — a reduction of 91 percent compared to 14 deaths in the 16,982 studied with Delta. It did not say how old those who died were, or if they were vaccinated.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky told reporters that it likely means the recent increase in deaths is a lagging effect of the Delta variant, not the one rapidly replacing it.
“We may see deaths from Omicron but I suspect that the deaths that we’re seeing now are still from Delta,” Walensky revealed.
Breakthrough infections of those who were vaccinated or had previously had COVID were far more likely to be Omicron, the study said.
Still, “reductions in disease severity associated with Omicron” were equally clear in “unvaccinated patients,” stressed the study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed.
It noted several other studies “have found similar reductions in severity,” including some conducted in South Africa, where Omicron was first detected.
Still, Walensky warned that the results should not lead to complacency, since Omicron’s extreme transmissibility is still stretching the overextended health care system, Agence France-Presse noted.
It comes after Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted Tuesday that Omicron “will ultimately find just about everybody.”
The World Health Organization’s special envoy on COVID-19 said Monday there’s an “end in sight” to the pandemic.
The CDC-funded study was conducted on data from the Kaiser Permanente Southern California hospital system between November 30, 2021, and January 1, 2022, when both strains were circulating widely.
With Post wires