Photo: Spencer Platt (Shutterstock)
The prognosis doesn’t look good. I’m not talking about the weather (although climate change is its own crisis). I mean the COVID-19 case numbers.
When the vaccination rates were high in June it looked like we were at the end of this whole pandemic thing, but then Delta came along. And now that Delta is starting to fade, we need to figure out what to do with Omicron. This winter will not be easy, especially given the flu and other respiratory viruses also on the rise.
Vaccines still work against Omicron
There’s good news and bad news about the hot new twist in town. First the bad: Omicron seems to be more transferable than deltawhich was already drastically more transferable than previous variants.
But there is good news too: there is evidence of it Omicron can cause less serious illnesses. Ironically, the best scenario would be if we got a variant that is incredibly transmissible so that it outperforms all other variants, but also only causes mild or asymptomatic disease. That would bring it to the level of a cold that we can come to terms with. We don’t yet know if Omicron is bland enough to be this best-case variant. But at least it’s not more virulent, which is considered a positive side for the time being.
Okay, but there’s more bad news: Vaccines (and previous infections) don’t protect against Omicron as well as previous strains. And one more piece of good news: the vaccines still work against Omicron, so maybe you just need more. (Definitely Get your booster.)
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Hospitals are already overwhelmed and the situation is likely to get worse
If you don’t work in health care and don’t know anyone who does, you may not know that our health systems have been on alert for nearly two years. Workers are burned out, intensive care units are filling up, and people who don’t have to die are dying.
Head of the hospital in Minnesota only a full-page newspaper ad was placed say, “We are heartbroken. We are overwhelmed, ”beg the residents to get vaccinated and wear masks. It’s a pretty universal feeling. On one recently press call Regarding the state of hospital care, Emergency Doctor John Hick said that “every shift I work today is the worst shift in my career.”
If you need confirmation, quickly scroll down. r / care subreddit. People are dying, hospitals are constantly running out of space and resources, and caregivers are exhausted and underpaid.
Studies of how hospitals are doing is rife with more bad news. For example, the funding of the CARES law for hospitals was unevenly distributed, Worsening disparities in black communities. An analysis of COVID deaths from last year found that up to 1 in 4 of these deaths could be due to hospital congestion.
What we can do
In that press briefing on hospitals, I asked what we can all do about the current state of health. A key tip from Hick was to stay current on prevention and fix small problems before they turn into big problems.
With more breakthrough cases happening at Omicron, we can no longer rely on vaccines as the only means of protection. In the days leading up to the vaccination, remember the importance of protecting yourself from COVID “Swiss cheese” model where we have layered imperfect safeguards on top of each other? When you wear masks and avoid crowded interiors and get tested to see if you might be sick, these safeguards add up. Nowadays the vaccine can only be thought of as a particularly thick slice of Havarti. It’s not a guarantee, so the other layers of cheese help a lot.
This means that at the beginning of this winter we have to think about risks in a similar way to last year. Masks will help, and crowded interiors are still not a great place to be. If you’ve been vaccinated and contracted COVID, it is comforting to know that you are less likely to get seriously ill and less likely to pass it on to others. But even statistically mild cases of COVID are of concern to susceptible people (such as young children and people with immunodeficiency), and in large numbers they are particularly bad for communities. So it’s worth taking extra precautions.