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A highly influential COVID-19 forecast is projecting that the Omicron surge may result in as many as 400,000 new coronavirus cases a day across the nation — significantly higher than last winter’s record of 250,000 cases a day.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects the Omicron surge will continue rising swiftly through December and into January, potentially peaking later next month or in early February. Despite the increase in cases, predictions indicate there will be fewer daily deaths than during last winter’s devastating peak.

The nation — and California — are already showing troubling signs of an Omicron-related surge. The U.S. is reporting an average of nearly 150,000 new coronavirus cases a day, approaching the peak of the summer Delta wave, which reached 164,000 new daily cases.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations during this winter’s peak could be slightly higher than last year, the forecast says.

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