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Hope seen once omicron wave increases global immunity

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Workers walk over London Bridge towards the City of London financial district during the morning rush hour, in London, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. The British government have asked people to return to working in offices starting Monday as they ease coronavirus restrictions.
Workers walk over London Bridge towards the City of London financial district during the morning rush hour, in London, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. The British government have asked people to return to working in offices starting Monday as they ease coronavirus restrictions. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (Jorge Saenz/Associated Press) Photo Gallery

World health officials are offering hope that the ebbing of the omicron wave could give way to a new, more manageable phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as they warn of difficult weeks ahead and the possibility of another, more dangerous variant arising.

In the U.S., cases have crested and are dropping rapidly, following a pattern seen in Britain and South Africa, with researchers projecting a period of low spread in many countries by the end of March. Though U.S. deaths — now at 2,000 each day — are still rising, new hospital admissions have started to fall, and a drop in deaths is expected to follow.

The encouraging trends after two years of coronavirus misery have brought a noticeably hopeful tone from health experts. Rosy predictions have crumbled before, but this time they are backed by what could be called omicron’s silver lining: The highly contagious variant will leave behind extremely high levels of immunity.

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci talked on ABC “This Week” about a “best-case scenario” where COVID-19 would fall to manageable levels so the United States could get “back to a degree of normality.”

And on Monday, the World Health Organization issued a statement anticipating an end to the “emergency phase” of the pandemic this year and saying that the omicron variant “offers plausible hope for stabilization and normalization.”

Both Fauci and the WHO’s Europe regional director, Dr. Hans Kluge, cautioned that new variants are likely to emerge, but with vaccination, new drug therapies and — during surges — testing and masks, the world could reach a less disruptive level of disease in which the virus is, as Fauci put it, “essentially integrated into the general respiratory infections that we have learned to live with.”

In the U.S., new cases are averaging a still extraordinarily high 680,000 a day, down from an all-time peak of over 800,000 a little more than a week ago.

The places in the U.S. where omicron struck first are seeing the sharpest declines. New cases in the Northeast are nose-diving, while other states — Arizona, Texas, Oregon, Kansas and North Dakota among them — are still waiting for relief.

Falling, too, are new U.S. hospital admissions of patients with confirmed COVID-19. They are averaging nearly 20,000 per day, down about 7 percent from the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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