Rob Stein

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This huge omicron surge appears to be peaking in the U.S. That's according to a growing number of infectious disease experts who are tracking the pandemic.

NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us now with the latest. Hey, Rob.

Could the massive omicron surge have started to peak?

The short answer is: Maybe. Experts say it could be peaking, at least in some places, but it is still a little too soon to tell for sure.

"It's a bit early," says Jeffrey Shaman, who studies infectious diseases at Columbia University. "But I'm hopeful things are subsiding in spots."

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Could the omicron surge be starting to peak in the United States? Some researchers see early signs in some areas of the country. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us now. Rob, good morning.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

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For more than a year, Victoria Gray's life had been transformed. Gone were the sudden attacks of horrible pain that had tortured her all her life. Gone was the devastating fatigue that had left her helpless to care for herself or her kids. Gone were the nightmarish nights in the emergency room getting blood transfusions and powerful pain medication.

A new analysis by the University of Washington shows the omicron surge will peak in a massive wave of infections by the end of January but is likely to produce far fewer severe illnesses for most people.

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How bad could an omicron surge get this winter?

Until key questions about the new coronavirus variant are answered, it's impossible to predict its impact with certainty. Still, several teams of scientists are using computer models to project possible scenarios for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Updated 5:00 p.m. ET

There's more mixed news about the power of vaccines to protect people against the omicron variant — this time about the Moderna vaccine.

A preliminary study made public Wednesday studied blood samples in the lab from 30 people who had gotten two Moderna shots, and it found that the antibodies in their blood are at least about 50 times less effective at neutralizing the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Previous research had indicated the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is also less protective against omicron.

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President Biden delivered his latest plan today about how to deal with COVID-19. From colder weather to the omicron variant, new challenges abound.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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There's a lot we need to learn — and fast — about the omicron variant. Federal health officials have been scrambling since Thanksgiving to gather critical information to inform the U.S. response.

Key to that is ramping up the country's capacity to detect the variant in the U.S. population. Once it starts to show up around the country — and experts are confident that's a matter of when not if — tracking its spread will be crucial.

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Today, President Biden tried to reassure the country that his administration is doing everything possible to protect Americans against the omicron variant.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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Kelly LaDue thought she was done with COVID-19 in the fall of 2020 after being tormented by the virus for a miserable couple of weeks.

"And then I started with really bad heart-racing with any exertion. It was weird," says LaDue, 54, of Ontario, N.Y. "Walking up the stairs, I'd have to sit down and rest. And I was short of breath. I had to rest after everything I did."

The number of people getting COVID-19 vaccine boosters in the U.S. is now far outpacing the number getting their first shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That trend represents a big success for White House's aggressive booster campaign. But it also underscores the administration's flagging effort to achieve its high priority of vaccinating the remaining unvaccinated Americans.

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Updated Oct. 14, 12:45 p.m. ET

If you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as your first COVID-19 shot, a booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine apparently could produce a stronger immune response than a second dose of J&J's vaccine. That's the finding of a highly anticipated study released Wednesday.

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For the first time, doctors are reporting that they have restored vision to people blinded by a rare genetic disorder using the revolutionary gene-editing technique known as CRISPR.

Carlene Knight's vision was so bad that she couldn't even maneuver around the call center where she works using her cane.

"I was bumping into the cubicles and really scaring people that were sitting at them," says Knight, who was born with a rare genetic eye disease.

But that's changed as a result of volunteering for a landmark medical experiment. Her vision has improved enough for her to make out doorways, navigate hallways, spot objects and even see colors.

"It's nice. I don't scare people and I don't have as many bruises on my body," Knight says, laughing.

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Americans may be able to breathe a tentative sigh of relief soon, according to researchers studying the trajectory of the pandemic.

The delta surge appears to be peaking nationally, and cases and deaths will likely decline steadily now through the spring without a significant winter surge, according to a new analysis shared with NPR by a consortium of researchers advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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