Omicron within the U.S.: What to Know

Dec. 20 , 2021 — The Omicron coronavirus variant has been present in dozens of states throughout the nation because it was first recognized in South Africa in November, and lots of could also be questioning: Will it upstage Delta and trigger a winter surge? Is it nonetheless secure to collect with others for the vacations? How is that this variant affecting youngsters?

Consultants addressed these and different questions in a webinar hosted by New York College final week, acknowledging that it’s going to take a while to search out out all of the essential info about Omicron.

However within the meantime, here is what’s identified — and never — about Omicron within the fast-changing COVID panorama.

How widespread is Omicron now?

As of Dec. 15, Omicron transmission had been reported in 80 nations, in response to Michael H. Merson, MD, a visiting professor of world well being on the New York College Faculty of International Public Well being. Within the 35 states with Omicron circumstances, the numbers fluctuate. Proper now, New York and New Jersey are detecting the Omicron variant at about 4 instances the general price within the nation, he mentioned. However whether or not or not the variant will stay in ”pockets” is presently unknown, he mentioned.

How can folks benefit from the holidays safely?

On the subject of deciding about gatherings and journey, “belief your instincts,” Elodie Ghedin, PhD, chief of the techniques genomics part on the Nationwide Institute of Allergy and Infectious Illnesses and affiliate school member at NYU, mentioned.

“Prior to now 2 years, you may have developed a really feel for what feels too shut. This isn’t April 2020. You have got realized loads within the final 2 years.”

For example of secure vacation gatherings, the consultants cited President Joe Biden’s look final Tuesday at a celebration of 400, which was held on a lodge rooftop attributable to COVID considerations.

“It is essential to spend the vacations with household and mates,” Merson mentioned. “However achieve this properly. That is my recommendation about journey.”

Meaning getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible, making use of speedy testing when referred to as for, masking, handwashing, avoiding crowded indoor areas, and preserving your distance from others.

Figuring out your threat stage and that of household and mates when planning for the vacations can also be vital, Merson mentioned.

Is Omicron significantly affecting youngsters?

Consultants are ready on information to search out out.

“The jury continues to be out on how virulent Omicron might be for youths,” mentioned Celine R. Gounder, MD, a member of President Biden’s COVID-19 process power and a medical assistant professor of medication and infectious illnesses at NYU Grossman Faculty of Drugs. “We do not know.”

The most effective factor mother and father can do proper now could be to vaccinate their youngsters ages 5 years and up who’re eligible, she mentioned.

Do monoclonal antibody medicine work properly in opposition to Omicron?

No, Ghedin mentioned.

“Many of the monoclonal antibodies don’t appear to work very properly in opposition to Omicron,” she mentioned.

What’s identified about how infectious Omicron is?

“It seems to be probably the most infectious variant up to now,” mentioned Gounder.

“Relative to Delta, Omicron seems to be 2-3 instances extra infectious.”

Put one other means, she mentioned, you’re prone to infect 2 to three instances extra folks than if contaminated with different variants.

Folks mustn’t rely on their pure immunity from a previous COVID an infection to guard them from the Omicron variant, Gounder mentioned.

It additionally does appear that the Omicron variant is perhaps much less virulent than different variants, she mentioned. (Virulence refers to how extreme a illness an contaminated particular person can get.)

If Omicron is much less virulent, is not that excellent news?

Sure and no, Gounder mentioned.

“Even when it is a gentle illness, you may nonetheless have numerous deaths. As an instance COVID has a case fatality price of 1% and you’ve got 100 individuals who get contaminated — and one dying,” she mentioned.

Then say Omicron’s price is .25%, however in case you have 400 circumstances, since it’s extra infectious, that is nonetheless one dying.

“We actually need to be very cautious once we say much less lethal and fewer extreme [when talking about Omicron]. On a inhabitants stage, Omicron might be simply as lethal as Delta even when it causes gentle illness, if extra are contaminated,” she mentioned.

If a COVID check is optimistic, will the outcomes specify whether or not it’s the Delta or the Omicron variant?

“Sadly, you won’t be able to get that info from a PCR check performed in the neighborhood,” Ghedin mentioned. “In case you are doing it by way of a analysis entity, they could present that info, however I extremely doubt it.”

With extra folks vaccinated now than previously, can we take into account COVID endemic, not a pandemic, now?

No, Gounder mentioned.

“We’re nowhere close to endemic [status],” she mentioned. “We’re nonetheless very a lot pandemic. Saying it’s endemic now could be like saying, ‘Let’s do nothing.'”

At the moment the U.S. is at a stage of about 60% of the inhabitants vaccinated, she mentioned.

“We actually must be attending to 85, 90 p.c” earlier than transitioning into endemic standing.

In tropical international locations, the flu is endemic, Ghedin mentioned, ”and it is there year-round. We’re not there with SARS-CoV-2.”

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