(NEXSTAR) – Omicron is spreading so fast in the US, the curve for new COVID-19 cases looks more like a straight vertical line.
Over the past week, the country has seen an average of around 580,000 cases per day – with a day that has increased by over 1 million new reported cases – and broken records set earlier in the pandemic.
When will things turn around and the omicron start falling?
Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, predicted that we will see our peak in the second or third week of January before numbers begin to fall.
Dr. Davidson Hamer, a professor of global health at Boston University, estimated a similar timeline. “Right now we are still on the rise for most parts of the country,” he said. “My prediction will be in the next two to four weeks, we’ll see it [reach a peak] and begins to fall. ”
Epidemiologists look to South Africa, the first country where the variant took off, to find clues as to what might happen here.
“They reached their peak in about four weeks and then began to fall,” Rutherford said. “They were at about 38% of the peak on Monday, so it was a very steep fall.”
Will our decline be as steep as that of South Africa? “Judging by the past, I would say that slow is more likely [scenario]”, said Hamer.
Rutherford looks to the UK and Denmark for more clues as to what is to come. Both European countries were slightly ahead of the US in their omicron rises, and both still report increased new COVID cases, only with a slower cut than a few weeks ago.
The reason for omicron’s meteoric rise is also responsible for its steep decline: it is so contagious that it is blazing through the population.
“It is so contagious and it has infected so many people, so it has exhausted the ‘susceptible’ quite quickly,” said Rutherford. The more fully vaccinated and boosted, the smaller the “risk base” this time, he added.
Nexstar’s Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.