patient in a hospital bed

Omicron is setting records. How much do the numbers matter?

Despite the overwhelming numbers in the current wave of COVID-19 cases, Northeastern experts say we have not been set back to March 2020. In 2022, the pandemic is different.

The omicron-fueled surge has set and reset daily COVID-19 case count records several times. And this week, the U.S. set a new record for pandemic hospitalizations, with 145,982 COVID-19 patients occupying hospital beds as of Tuesday. The previous record was set last January at 142,315, according to The New York Times. These totals also include people who were admitted to the hospital for other conditions and then incidentally tested positive for COVID-19.

In 2022, public health officials know a lot more about how to fight the virus. And that can begin with how we relate to the metrics.

“We need to think of cases differently and not compare the number that we have today with the numbers that we experienced in the past,” says Alessandro Vespignani, Sternberg Family Distinguished Professor and director of the Network Science Institute at Northeastern.

Record-high case counts might not be cause for concern in their own right because the omicron variant reportedly is less likely to cause severe illness than previous versions of the virus, particularly among fully vaccinated people and even more so among boosted people.


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Photo by Thibaud Moritz/AP Images.