Coronavirus Omicron variant
Coronavirus Omicron variantiStock

Omicron has raced ahead of other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the US, accounting for 73% of new infections last week, health officials said Monday, according to The Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said its numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in Omicron’s share of infections in only one week.

In much of the country, the variant’s prevalence is even higher, said the CDC, and is responsible for an estimated 90% of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest.

Since the end of June, the Delta variant has been the main version causing US infections. As recently as the end of November, more than 99.5% of coronaviruses were Delta, according to CDC data.

The data comes a day after top US pandemic advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned of a “bleak winter” ahead as Omicron spurs a new wave of infections globally.

"One thing that's very clear... is (Omicron's) extraordinary capability of spreading," Fauci told NBC News. "It is just... raging through to the world."

He cautioned against too much optimism over Omicron's severity, noting that in South Africa, while the hospitalization-to-case ratio is lower than with the Delta variant, this could be due to underlying immunity from widespread previous infections.

"No matter how you look at it," he underscored, "when you have so many, many infections, even if it is less severe, that overcomes this slight to moderate diminution in severity."

Meanwhile on Monday, Israel’s government voted to ban travel to several countries, among them the US, due to the rise in cases of COVID-19 cases.

In a vote conducted by telephone, government ministers backed Health Ministry plans to expand the list of “red countries” to include the United States, Canada, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Turkey, Portugal, and Switzerland.

Deliberations were held on the plan Sunday night, though no decision was reached until Monday morning.

The decision will need to be brought before the Knesset’s Constitution Committee for final approval.

If approved, the travel ban will go into effect at midnight between Tuesday and Wednesday.