Cases of omicron are surging. The seven-day average is 240,408, a 60% increase over last week. Although the percentage of cases that require hospitalization or cause death remain relatively low, the sheer infectiousness of the disease means many people will suffer.
“This virus has proven its ability to adapt quickly and we must adapt with it,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a White House briefing on Wednesday.
Even in Florida, a state that has tried to go full steam ahead through much of the pandemic, the Miami Hurricanes had to pull out of a football game and a production of the Nutcracker was canceled.
For the second year in a row, Susan Patterson was forced to shut down the “First Night” festival in Saranac Lake, N.Y., that she helps organize.
“We had a couple hundred people who would usually go,” she said, noting that winters in her region of that state’s north are long and social gatherings are important.
Patterson, who lives alone, said organizing the festival is also an important part of her winter — a way of connecting and celebrating.
Asked what she’ll do now on New Year’s Eve, she shook her head and laughed ruefully. “I don’t know. Nothing.”
Meanwhile, for people who choose to gather and celebrate despite the rise in omicron cases, public health officials are urging caution.
People who are vaccinated and have had their booster shots are most safe. Wearing high-quality masks and maintaining social distance whenever possible can also help lower risk. At a briefing this week, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul also urged people to gather outside if weather allows.