At another bleak moment of the pandemic in the United States — with nearly 800,000 new cases a day, deaths rising and federal medical teams deploying to overwhelmed hospitals — glints of progress have finally started to emerge. In a handful of places that were among the first to see a surge of the Omicron variant last month, reports of new coronavirus infections have started to level off or decline.
Daily case reports have been falling rapidly around Cleveland, Newark and Washington, D.C., each of which sustained record-shattering spikes over the past month. There were also early signs in Chicago, New York, Puerto Rico and hard-hit ski resort towns in Colorado that cases were hitting a plateau or starting to drop.
The slowing of the spread in those places was welcome news, raising the prospect that a national peak in the Omicron wave may be approaching. But most of the country continued to see explosive growth in virus cases, with some Western and Southern states reporting 400 percent increases over the past two weeks. Officials also warned that hospitalizations and deaths lag actual infections, meaning that even in places where new cases have begun declining, it would still be weeks before the full impact of Omicron was known.