CDC overestimated Omicron case numbers, count slashed

Watchful Eye
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On its Omicron information page, the CDC says “as of December 20, 2021, Omicron has been detected in most states and territories and is rapidly increasing the proportion of COVID-19 cases it is causing.”

And although the variant is increasing the number of Covid cases, it hasn’t been doing so anywhere near as widely as health officials claimed, the New York Times revealed.

For the week ended December 18, the CDC claimed Omicron accounted for 73 percent of the variants circulating throughout the United States. But it has now released a revision clarifying that Omicron really only accounted for 23 percent of cases that week, the New York Times article explained.

Furthermore, the number of Omicron cases still aren’t anywhere near the previously stated level. As of Christmas Day, the CDC was attributing 59 percent of cases to the variant, New York Post reported.

The question then is, why was the CDC’s count so far off?

The answer: because it wasn’t a count. It was an estimate.

To determine how many cases are caused by one variant versus another genetic sequencing must be conducted on samples from infected people. And that process is only performed on a portion of all samples. Modeling of those results is then used to create estimates of the bigger picture.

This means that the CDC’s latest projection that 59 percent of cases are Omicron could also be wrong.

Futhermore, the revision and the reality that the Delta variant is still widespread suggests that much of the connection that has been drawn between rising hospitalizations and the presence of Omicron is misguided. “A good portion” of the people hospitalized likely had Delta, former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb suggested on Twitter.

David O’Connor, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of numerous experts who are calling out the CDC’s poor communication about its numbers and the uncertainty surrounding them. “Having the humility to acknowledge that there’s a lot that no one knows and is unknowable right now is going to be really important,” he told the New York Times.

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