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Expand chart
Note: Maryland is unable to report new cases due to a technical issue; Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Axios Visuals

U.S. coronavirus cases rose by 27% over the last two weeks as the Omicron variant quickly became dominant, although the rise was unevenly distributed around the country.

Why it matters: The spike in cases in cities like New York and D.C. are likely a preview of what will soon hit other parts of the country.

By the numbers: The U.S. is now reporting a rolling average of more than 150,000 new cases a day, and experts say this number will only go up.

  • The CDC said this week that Omicron now accounts for more than 73% of U.S. cases, a nearly a six-fold increase in its share of infections in just one week.
  • More than 1,300 Americans are still dying of COVID every day, a 6% increase over two weeks ago. But these deaths are almost entirely from the Delta variant, as deaths lag several weeks behind infections.

The big picture: The Northeast is seeing particularly large case increases, and the South is seeing a rise as well.

  • Plenty of states, however, are seeing cases go down, although it's unlikely they'll escape the impact of the Omicron variant in the coming weeks.

Where it stands: New York City appears to be, once again, the epicenter of the pandemic, although D.C. has joined it.

Between the lines: Omicron's arrival signals an unprecedented number of cases in the near future, but it's much less clear what it'll mean for hospitalizations — an indicator that lags a couple of weeks behind cases.

  • Preliminary research continues to suggest that Omicron is causing milder illness than earlier variants.
  • Two new studies from the U.K., released yesterday, found that Omicron infections are less likely to lead to hospitalization, the New York Times reports. But that's mostly because Omicron tends to reinfect people who have already had COVID, not because it is inherently significantly less dangerous than the Delta variant, according to the researchers.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated."
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated — Annual vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate — Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance — Arizona governor sues Biden administration over funds tied to mandates.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
20 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating" and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 51 mins ago - Economy & Business

S&P 500 on track for worst-ever start to year

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Stocks suffered their steepest drop of the year early Monday, putting the S&P 500 on course for its worst-ever start to a year.

Driving the news: The benchmark S&P 500 dropped for its fifth straight day, with losses nearing 3% in early trading, momentarily putting it on track to fall into a "correction." Some of the steepest losses were recovered in early afternoon trading.