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Nurses wearing PPE attend to patients in a Covid-19 ICU at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital on Jan. 6, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Omicron infections are associated with a 91% reduction in risk of death compared to the Delta variant, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday, citing a new Kaiser Permanente Southern California study.

The big picture: The study also showed that Omicron infections were also associated with a 74% reduction in risk of going to the ICU, as well as a 53% reduction in risk of being hospitalized, Rochelle Walensky said.

Details: The study, which is yet to be peer reviewed, looked at 52,297 Omicron cases and 16,982 Delta cases. Those involved tested positive in Southern California between Nov. 30, 2021 and Jan. 1, 2022.

  • It was also done with CDC collaboration and funding, Walensky said.
  • No patients with Omicron in the study required mechanical ventilation.
  • Additionally, those with Omicron had a shorter duration in hospital stay when compared to Delta patients: "The duration of hospital stays was approximately 70% shorter, with the median of stays being 1.5 days for Omicron, compared to about five days for Delta," Walensky said.
  • "Looking at all hospital admissions for Omicron, 90% of patients were expected to be discharged from the hospital in three days or less," she added.

Yes, but: "While we are seeing early evidence that Omicron is less severe than Delta, and that those infected are less likely to require hospitalization, it's important to note that Omicron continues to be much more transmissible than Delta," Walensky said.

  • This has resulted in "unprecedented daily case counts, sickness, absenteeism, and strains on our healthcare system," according to the CDC director.

NIAID director Anthony Fauci added that those who are vaccinated and boosted are much less likely to get severe illness from Omicron.

  • He said that as the virus is controlled — but not eradicated — "virtually everybody is going to wind up getting exposed and likely get infected," but the chances of getting sick is "very, very low" for those who are up to date with their inoculations.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 31 seconds ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Swastikas found outside Union Station in D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.