Is Omicron on its way out? Plus more COVID-19 news

Scientists are seeing signals that COVID-19′s alarming omicron wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the U.S., at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically.

The reason: The variant has proved so wildly contagious that it may already be running out of people to infect, just a month and a half after it was first detected in South Africa.

“It’s going to come down as fast as it went up,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

But, health officials and experts are increasingly saying it’s time to upgrade your face masks, especially in light of the omicron surge.

California’s public health director and health officer, Dr. Tomás Aragón, says it’s important to improve the fit of masks and their filtration — making enhancements that go beyond old, loose, cloth face coverings that became popular in 2020. Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the University of California, San Francisco’s Department of Medicine, agreed. Since omicron is twice as infectious, Wachter wrote, “an encounter that you could have tolerated for Delta may well infect you (with) Omicron. Knowing this, it’s worth upgrading the protection you get from your mask.”

Shortages at U.S. grocery stores have grown more acute in recent weeks as new problems — like the fast-spreading omicron variant and severe weather — have piled on to the supply chain struggles and labor shortages that have plagued retailers since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The shortages are widespread, impacting produce and meat as well as packaged goods such as cereal. And they’re being reported nationwide. U.S. groceries typically have 5% to 10% of their items out of stock at any given time; right now, that unavailability rate is hovering around 15%, according to Consumer Brands Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman.