Virtually all of those who have to be admitted to his hospital for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, said Dr. Spencer. "Every one with profound shortness of breath. Every one whose oxygen dropped when they walked. Every one needing oxygen to breathe regularly."

Because omicron is so incredibly contagious, medical experts say its peak isn’t likely to last long.

It’s already burned through South Africa since it was first identified the day before Thanksgiving and cases are falling there. In the week ending Dec. 26, the number of newly diagnosed had dropped nearly 36% from their peak a week earlier, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

If the Northeast, which has been battered by COVID-19’s omicron variant over the past two weeks, follows the same pattern, it could see falling case rates as soon as mid-January, though since the U.S. is so large, it’s likely to take time to move across the country, experts say.

The news is even better for people with the vaccine. Although two shots are not as protective against omicron as they were against previous variants, vaccination and boosting seems to make a big difference in people with a healthy immune system.

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