The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new forecast modeling on Wednesday, predicting a grim picture of what is to come for the U.S. in terms of COVID cases and deaths.

As many as 1.3 million Americans may be diagnosed with COVID-19 infections during the week that ends on Christmas Day, up 55% from the 840,000 cases that have been recorded over the last week.

COVID-19 deaths are expected to increase by 73% to 15,600 a week by Jan. 8. Deaths are projected to reach 2,228 a day by Jan. 8. There are 8,900 deaths currently being reported each week, the CDC said.

The surge in cases and deaths is being fueled by the rise of the Omicron variant, which was detected last month in South Africa. It was named a variant of concern by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26.

The first case of Omicron was detected in the U.S. in San Francisco on Dec. 1. It has now been reported in at least 36 U.S. states.

Health experts have warned about the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, suggesting that it could become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the coming weeks over the Delta variant, which currently makes up 97% of virus cases.

In much of Europe, cases of Omicron are doubling every few days. The U.K. reported its first death from Omicron on Monday. At least 10,000 cases of Omicron were reported in the U.K. on Wednesday.

Dr. Gregory Poland, an epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic, told the Daily Mail that an Omicron surge could be right around the corner.

He said, “As best any of us can model, we will have an explosion of cases after the holidays in the early-to-mid-January timeframe. This variant is hyper transmissible. It spreads exponentially in an environment of cold weather, massive holiday get-togethers, no masking and insufficient immunization.”

The CDC’s data showed that infections from Omicron have increased 27% in the last 24 hours from 189 to 241 cases, as reported by the Daily Mail. Cases of the variant account for 2.9% of all COVID-19 cases, up 0.4% from a week earlier as of Tuesday.

While scientists work to understand more about the new COVID strain, it is becoming clear that while current vaccines may not provide full efficacy against the variant without the booster dose, a specific Omicron shot may not be necessary.

On Wednesday, the leading infectious disease expert in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci, said during a coronavirus briefing, “Our booster vaccine regimens work against Omicron. At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster.

“And so the message remains clear: If you are unvaccinated, get vaccinated. And particularly in the arena of Omicron, if you are fully vaccinated, get your booster shot,” he added.

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A group of doctors working with patients infected with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 wear face shields at the Intensive Care Unit of the Hospital de Clinicas in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on April 15, 2020. SILVIO AVILA/AFP via Getty Images