A year after omicron began its assault on humanity, the ever-morphing coronavirus mutant drove COVID-19 case counts higher in many places just as Americans gathered for Thanksgiving, AP writes.

It was a prelude to a wave that experts expect to soon wash over the U.S.Phoenix-area emergency physician Dr. Nicholas Vasquez said his hospital admitted a growing number of chronically ill people and nursing home residents with severe COVID-19 this month.

“It’s been quite a while since we needed to have COVID wards,” he said. “It’s making a clear comeback.”Nationally, new COVID cases averaged around 39,300 a day as of Tuesday — far lower than last winter but a vast undercount because of reduced testing and reporting.

About 28,000 people with COVID were hospitalized daily and about 340 died. Cases and deaths were up from two weeks earlier. Yet a fifth of the U.S. population hasn’t been vaccinated, most Americans haven’t gotten the latest boosters and many have stopped wearing masks. Meanwhile, the virus keeps finding ways to avoid defeat.

The omicron variant arrived in the U.S. just after Thanksgiving last year and caused the pandemic’s biggest wave of cases. Since then, it has spawned a large extended family of sub-variants, such as those most common in the U.S. now : BQ.1, BQ.1.1 and BA.5. They edged out competitors by getting better at evading immunity from vaccines and previous illness — and sickening millions.

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