A Growing Gap

We look at Omicron’s toll in New York and Seattle, two cities with timely data.

We look at Omicron’s toll in New York and Seattle, two cities with timely data.

Some of the timeliest data on Covid-19 outcomes by vaccination status comes from New York City and the Seattle area, and the two are telling a consistent story.

Cases for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents alike are rising:


Data is age adjusted. Recent data may be incomplete.Credit…Sources: New York City Department of Health, Washington Department of Health

They’re rising because vaccination often does not prevent infection from the Omicron variant. It reduces the chances substantially — as you can see above — but vaccinated people still face a meaningful chance of infection.

What vaccination does is radically reduce the chance of severe Covid illness. Look how different these charts on hospitalizations looks from the previous charts on cases:


Data is age adjusted. Recent data may be incomplete.Credit…Sources: New York City Department of Health, Washington Department of Health

(The number of Americans hospitalized with Covid has surpassed last winter’s peak.)

Some experts believe that the hospitalization gap between the vaccinated and unvaccinated is even larger than these charts suggest. The official data on Covid hospitalizations includes many people who are hospitalized for other reasons — say, a heart condition or a bicycle crash — and who test positive for the virus while being treated.

About one-third of Covid hospitalizations fall into this category, according to a recent analysis at the University of California, San Francisco. In New York State, 43 percent of people hospitalized with Covid were admitted for other reasons.

It’s true that some of these incidental Covid hospitalizations still cause problems. The virus can harm people whose bodies are weakened by other medical conditions, and all Covid cases put added stress on hospitals, because patients must be isolated. (“Hospitals are in serious trouble,” Ed Yong writes in The Atlantic.)

Still, many incidental Covid cases in hospitals do not present much risk to the infected person. And Omicron is so contagious that it has infected many vaccinated people, likely inflating the hospitalization numbers more than previous variants have.

The death gap

The data on deaths from New York and Seattle underscores the relatively low risks for vaccinated people. These numbers show a starker gap between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated than the hospitalization data:


Data is age adjusted. Recent data may be incomplete.Credit…Sources: New York City Department of Health, Washington Department of Health

One caveat is death trends tend to lag case trends by about three weeks. In coming weeks, deaths among the vaccinated will almost certainly rise, given how sharply cases have risen. These deaths will likely be concentrated among people in vulnerable health, including the elderly and those with a serious underlying medical condition like a previous organ transplant — especially if they’re not boosted.

This likelihood — along with the problem of overwhelmed hospitals — is one of the strongest arguments for taking steps to reduce the size of the current Omicron wave. More vaccine mandates and indoor mask wearing can help reduce cases and, by extension, deaths, experts say.

But the early data raises the possibility that the increase in deaths among the vaccinated will remain relatively modest. The gap in the mortality charts above can’t merely be a reflection of the lag between the cases and deaths. After all, deaths among unvaccinated New Yorkers and Seattleites had already begun to surge in December. Deaths among the vaccinated had not.

(In Boston and Chicago, Covid deaths have also risen, these charts show.)

The bottom line

Vaccination remains highly effective at preventing severe Covid illnesses. And Omicron is milder than earlier versions of the virus. The combination means that most Americans — including children and vaccinated adults — face little personal risk from Omicron.

The risk is not zero, to be clear, even among people who are generally healthy. But it is very small. Every day, people live with small risks, be they from the seasonal flu and other illnesses or from riding in a vehicle, playing sports or other activities.

For the unvaccinated, the situation is very different. Omicron is still severe enough that it will lead to debilitating illness and death for many unvaccinated people. In much of the U.S., a large number of adults — including older adults — remain unvaccinated:


Credit…Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


In Portugal, one of the most vaccinated countries, Covid deaths have not risen much even as cases have surged, notes Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Research. The trends are similar in other parts of Europe.

The situation looks worse in the U.S., partly because vaccination rates are lower than in Europe, David Wallace-Wells of New York Magazine writes.


The Virus

Chicago schools will reopen after the teachers’ union and the city struck a deal over Covid safeguards.

Private insurers will cover the cost of eight at-home tests per person each month. Here’s how it works.

At-home tests are inaccessible to blind people. These workarounds could help.

Misinformation about tests is spreading on social media.


President Biden will endorse changing Senate rules to pass voting rights protections in a speech today.

In negotiations about Ukraine, the U.S. and Russia were deadlocked about NATO expansion.

Mike Pence would be a key witness for the House committee investigating Jan. 6. He might not want to talk.

On Biden’s climate and social spending bill, Senator Joe Manchin is caught between the mine workers’ union and the mine owners in his state.

Clay Aiken, a former “American Idol” contestant, is running for Congress as a Democrat in North Carolina, for the second time.

Senator Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, said the 2020 election was “fair” and that Donald Trump lost. Trump attacked him.

Other Big Stories


Robert Durst in 2015.Credit…Edmund D. Fountain for The New York Times

Robert Durst, the former real estate heir convicted of one murder and suspected of two others, died at 78.

All 17 people killed in a Bronx fire died after inhaling smoke that spread through the high-rise because of one malfunctioning door.

Doctors in Maryland successfully transplanted a pig’s heart into a human.

A lawsuit is accusing 16 private universities and colleges in the U.S. of conspiring to reduce financial aid for students through a price-fixing cartel.

Haiti’s prime minister had close ties to a suspect in the assassination of the country’s president.


Voter disenfranchisement isn’t always easy to spot. These maps help, Duy Nguyen writes.

Gail Collins and Bret Stephens discussedCovid 3.0 in their first conversation of the year.



Rum’s only shop.Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Rum Isle: A misty Scottish island put out a call for new residents. Its population soared to 40.

Dating: What is love bombing?

Royal secrets: How 16th-century Europeans kept their correspondence safe from spies.

Ask The Ethicist:Must I donate a kidney to my awful brother?

A Times classic: What white men think about their privilege.

Lives Lived: Don Maynard teamed with quarterback Joe Namath in a passing attack that took the New York Jets to an upset victory in Super Bowl III. Maynard died at 86.

Programming note: There is no Arts & Ideas feature today. It returns Wednesday.



Georgia wide receiver Adonai Mitchell, center, after a touchdown.Credit…AJ Mast for The New York Times

Georgia Beats Goliath

It’s been a good year for Georgia sports. Atlanta won the World Series. The Hawks made the Conference Finals. And last night, Georgia beat Alabama, 33-18, to win college football’s national championship.

Georgia’s stifling defense, which was the best in college football all season, intercepted Alabama’s quarterback in the final minute and returned it for a touchdown to seal their first title in more than 40 years.

The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Things to Know

Card 1 of 3

The latest Covid data in the U.S. As the Omicron surge causes case counts to reach record highs and hospitalizations to surpass the height of the Delta wave, here’s how to think about the data and what it’s beginning to show about Omicron’s potential toll across the county.

Around the world. In Europe, Germany is bracing for major protests against restrictions after thousands took to the streets in France and Austria, and a tough new vaccine requirement came into force in Italy. In Uganda, schools reopened after the longest pandemic-prompted shutdown in the world.

Staying safe. Worried about spreading Covid? Keep yourself and others safe by following some basic guidance on when to test and how to use at-home virus tests (if you can find them). Here is what to do if you test positive for the coronavirus.

Georgia spent years in the long shadow of its neighbor. Alabama has been to nine championship games since 2010, and won six. Georgia hadn’t beaten Alabama once in those years. Its head coach, Kirby Smart, had never beaten his former boss and mentor, Alabama’s Nick Saban.

But Georgia was no underdog. Both teams are among college football’s elite — they faced off in a championship game just four years ago — and Georgia entered the season with the country’s best recruiting class.

“Top-tier recruits quite often choose schools with histories of contending for championships, so the Alabamas and Georgias of the world more or less reload annually,” our colleague Alan Blinder, who covers college sports, told us. Don’t be surprised if you see one, or both, back in the title hunt next year.

For more: Here’s how Georgia won. — Tom Wright-Piersanti, a Morning editor


What to Cook


Credit…Kate Sears for The New York Times

Whip up bean and cheese burritos using pantry staples and basic fresh ingredients.

What to Listen to

The Weeknd’s new album, “Dawn FM,” is “sleek and rigorous,” Jon Caramanica writes.


Rugs that evoke classic CDs, a color-changing umbrella featuring Missy Elliott lyrics — Sean Brown has created a home d?cor brand inspired by hip-hop.

Late Night

The hosts discussed “Deltacron.”

Now Time to Play


The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was biological. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Approximately (four letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. Anna Martin, a Times audio producer, is the new host of the “Modern Love” podcast.

Here’s today’s front page.

The Daily” is about this Covid surge. “The Ezra Klein Show” features MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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