Omicron is said to be less deadly, but deaths are still high. They've been worse, but we are still over 1000/day. I wondered if this is the last gasps of Delta, augmented by some few Omicron? Apparently not. It's pretty much all Omicron at this point. So what gives? After all, we supposedly know what we are doing in treatment than we did at the beginning. I think I falsely expected that because Omicron was less deadly that it was going to shortly mean no deaths at all. I was looking only at the positive herd immunity possibility. Overoptimistic again. Looking at the death numbers doesn't seem to treat that in me for long.
The short answer is that there are so many cases. In the first months not everyone was counting carefully, and it is still true that not every state - not even every hospital in a state - is counting in exactly the same way. But whatever the relationship of counting is to cases, it has very likely been stable for well over a year, and comparisons between peaks and troughs has some meaning. Comparisons of cases between states is still approximate, BTW. Hospitalisations and deaths are not identical in definition between localities, but are much closer to a true comparison.
New cases are at three or even four times the rate of our previous highest peak. Active cases are twice as high as they have ever been. That does suggest that active cases are about to get worse. For how long? Opinions differ, and I will not choose among them. Deaths are not also at record pace, but they are at about the rate of two of the previous three peaks. It was a good deal worse a year ago.
So the picture is that Omicron does not kill you as often, but it still kills you - and the public service announcement is "particularly if you aren't vaccinated." How much of that is people going back to their old ways of interacting - I will guess that being in closed spaces and average less distancing are a bigger factor than masking on that - how much of that is underestimating the deadliness of this variant, I don't know. Even though hospital staffing problems have strained capacity, I don't know that it has caused many of the deaths.
It did occur to me that it is not only medical services, but anyone who is responsible for staffing anything that is feeling the pinch at this point. Even if your employee is telling you they feel fine, most places have required time before return, usually based on local regulations, but sometimes on policies from company headquarters elsewhere. Some places might be shading the truth and looking the other way in order to keep going, but hospitals won't be among them. If you tested positive, you can't come in. It is also hard to measure the impact of the virus on staffing as some people move to better-paying jobs in their field pretty rapidly at this point. If they resign it might be opposition to mandatory vaccination - we certainly see people jump to that conclusion on the internet often enough. But heading for better pay at another nearby restaurant, hospital, or manufacturer, when they can raise their wages and yours can't or won't is a long-established pattern, as is deciding that this is the time to finally pack up and go live near your sister and find a job there.
Yet even if it is only for a relative few days each, a constant percentage of the workforce being at home strains all systems.