The Omicron variant of SARS-Cov-2 is highly transmissible with a doubling time of near 2 days. It has now spread into over 100 countries globally and is spreading rapidly throughout all 50 states in the US. 1M Floridians and 10M Americans could be infected before the end of January.
Luckily Omicron appears to be less virulent than the Delta variant, but more importantly, it is arriving at a time when the developed world is well vaccinated. This means that the majority of cases will affect 3 different groups:
1. unvaccinated who are mostly young and who are less susceptible to hospitalizations and deaths (as in South Africa)
2. vaccinated folks who while susceptible to infections are still well protected against serious illness by 2 doses and sometimes 3 doses (as in Denmark). Breakthrough probability is much higher with the Omicron than the Delta
3. reinfections of middle-aged adults who have survived an initial bout with COVID-19 but chose not to get vaccinated (older infectees disproportionally died already with earlier variants. Reinfections seldom occurred with prior strains but appear to be more likely with the Omicron.
Each one of these groups has lower hospitalizations and death rates than those experienced with earlier variants.
We have modeled the Florida Omicron risk by segmenting its population into these 3 groups and by age. We suggest that rather than the typical 10% seen in the past only 3% of Omicron infectees will get hospitalized. This good news is tempered by the fact that cases could rise to 2-3 higher than the Delta peak – straining the hospital system yet again. Moreover, pediatric hospitalizations could set new records as they are already doing in NY with unclear consequences for the future development of kids.
Case Fatality Rates (deaths divided by cases 2-4 weeks prior) should decrease from near 1.6% to 0.4% versus the Delta wave due to protection afforded by vaccinations and prior infections and younger age of the unvaccinated. This means that the death count in FL could reach 10k but should be below the 24.4k Floridian lives lost to the Delta wave.
This forecast depends on increased vaccination, boosting, and masking seen recently in FL continuing into January.