COVID update: Omicron less deadly than delta, but hospitals still overwhelmed, CDC says

As cases in South Africa and the United Kingdom are now falling, many hope that means the U.S. peak isn't far away.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- When comparing omicron vs. delta variants, omicron has 53% less risk of hospitalization and 91% less risk of death, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky revealed on Wednesday.

Still, given how transmissible omicron is, hospitals are overwhelmed and many wonder when the relief might be coming.

"The data in this study remains consistent with what we are seeing from omicron in other countries, including South Africa and the UK, and provides some understanding of what we can expect over the coming weeks as cases are predicted to peak in this country," Walensky said.

As cases in South Africa and the United Kingdom are now falling, many hope that means the U.S. peak isn't far away.

SEE ALSO: COVID Variant: 5 reasons you should not deliberately catch omicron to 'get it over with'

Still, COVID-19 tests are hard to find, and many industries are struggling amid the surge.

On Wednesday in Old City, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association gave out 1,200 tests to restaurant and hospitality workers, funded by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.

"You've seen restaurants closing up because so many of their employees are out sick. They're doing the quarantining but they wanted that negative test result," said Ben Fileccia, director of operations and strategy for the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Workers were grateful.

"This is a quiet time now so we don't need any more distractions or problems. So this is fantastic," said Donald Browning, a bartender at Bridget Foy's who came to pick up a free test.

"We're in the hotel every day with clients and whatnot, so I'm seeing people every day," said Carly Potomac who works at the Warwick Hotel. "Pretty much every day I expose myself, but I love being in office."

SEE ALSO: When am I contagious if infected with omicron?

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Dr. Ashish Jha reviews what to do if you develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 amid the surge of omicron cases.

Meanwhile, research on testing continues.

ECRI, a medical nonprofit based in Plymouth Meeting, has been studying at-home Covid tests and rating their usability. Officials say early studies indicate that a throat swab might be better at detecting omicron compared to a nasal swab.

"There's a belief that omicron, the variant itself, reproduces more rapidly and more substantially actually in the throat area. So a throat swab might be more appropriate, but this has not been proven out yet," said Dr. Marcus Schabacker, president and CEO of ECRI.

Dr. Schabacker points out that the nasal swab tests are not approved to be used as throat swabs, and says more research still needs to be done.
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