The health crisis caused by COVID-19 is entering its third year and is taking an ever-increasing human toll. This latest wave—attributed to the omicron variant—has infected around 814,000 people per day, which is 4.85 times greater than the peak of the wave attributed to the delta variant.
The variant has caused many people to pull back on work and spending, which is why we have downgraded our first quarter growth forecast for U.S. gross domestic product to 1.5%.
In the past week, the death toll reached nearly 1,900 per day, which is on par with the delta variant’s peak in September. More than 70.5 million people have been infected and 883,000 have died in five distinct waves of the pandemic in the United States.
Though there are signs that the omicron variant is subsiding in the larger metropolitan areas, the enormity of the spread and the concurrent spike in hospitalizations suggest additional deaths in the weeks ahead.
Even though the vaccines have prevented severe symptoms and deaths, the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau finds that millions of people have not been able to work because they are sick, they are caring for sick relatives, or are simply afraid of getting the virus.
Taken together, this pullback suggests a loss of output that is likely to show up in the final quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year, followed by a vigorous rebound through the middle of the year.