Omicron surge may peak in January & 6 more COVID-19 updates

Here are seven COVID-19 updates from the last week:

1. The national surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the omicron variant may last weeks, rather than months, according to recent projections from the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, a consortium of researchers helping the CDC track the pandemic's trajectory. Most models forecast cases and hospitalizations peaking by the end of January. 

2. On Dec. 28, CMS released guidance and survey procedures for the 25 states where its COVID-19 vaccination mandate for healthcare workers is not blocked. The guidance outlines enforcement action thresholds that CMS said will help surveyors in assessing compliance.

3. Researchers at IHU Mediterranee Infection in France have detected a new variant of the coronavirus, according to early research published on MedRxiv. An official from the World Health Organization said the variant has been on the agency's radar since November, but has not been a cause for concern given its spread over the last two months. 

4. COVID-19 hospitalizations — which are less sensitive to holiday-related data lags than positivity rates, case counts or deaths — are up in more than half the country and have doubled over the last two weeks in six states and Washington, D.C.

5. Some hospitals are seeing more patients with incidental COVID-19 cases,  those who were primarily admitted for other ailments and test positive. Officials from New York City-based NYU Langone Health told The New York Times that about 65 percent of its COVID-19 patients were "incidentally" found to be infected after admission for other reasons. 

6. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a 30-day state of emergency to take short-term actions to support overwhelmed hospitals and mobilized 1,000 National Guard members as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surged in the state. 

7. Citing community transmission and record high cases of COVID-19 as the omicron variant spreads, U.S. hospitals and health systems are urging patients and visitors to opt for medical-grade face masks instead of cloth versions.

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