The US on Monday recorded the first death caused by the new COVID-19 variant Omicron in Harris County, Texas. The deceased was a man in his 50s who was not vaccinated against coronavirus and had an underlying health condition, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo told Khou11 local network. The death was officially declared as the first Omicron fatality by County Judge Hidalgo at the announcement made during an afternoon news conference. "My phone was ringing, I'm sure you guys noticed, and it was our public health director telling me we just had our first Omicron-related death," she said.
The resident of Precinct 2 was among the vulnerable group with comorbidity at risk of severe complications from COVID-19, according to reports. "Please - get vaccinated and boosted," Hidalgo said. The highly complex strain Omicron, with a cluster of complex mutations, particularly on the protein spike, now accounts for 73% of the total coronavirus infections across the US, CDC reported, citing its sequencing data for the week ended Dec. 18. US death from omicron comes just weeks after the UK reported the first publicly confirmed death globally from Omicron earlier this month.
The World Health Organization [WHO] had earlier issued a statement warning that it expects a steep surge in the number of hospitalizations and deaths linked to the highly mutated and complex B.1.1.529 Omicron variant of concern. As the number of COVID-19 cases from a variant of concern increase globally, “we expect the number of hospitalised cases and even deaths to be reported,” said the WHO. In Texas, 82% of its new cases are omicron after just three weeks of testing. Texas Children's hospital has also been witnessing a surge in hospitalisations. Local media reports that the Omicron cases are doubling and tripling in a matter of just one week. “An upward trajectory that is steeper than anything we’ve seen previously during this pandemic," Dr. Jim Versalovic with Texas Children's Hospital told KHOU11.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden’s medical advisor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci said in televised remarks on CNN’s "State of the Union” that Omicron now ravaging across 89 countries in the world will drive a record number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths in the coming weeks. Dr. Fauci warned of a gigantic winter surge due to the variant's high transmissibility, as he expressed concerns about the strain’s ability to evade immune protection. When asked by his host Jake Tapper if the US is likely to see an upsurge in the COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant, Dr. Fauci stressed: "Unfortunately, Jake, I think that that is going to happen.” He also cautioned that the United States was going to witness “a significant stress in some regions of the country on the hospital system, particularly in those areas where you have a low level of vaccination.”