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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 protected to collect with others for the vacations? How is that this variant affecting youngsters?

Specialists 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 information About Omicron.

However within the meantime, right here's what's recognized — 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 keeping with 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 range. 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 individuals 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 college member at NYU, mentioned.

"Prior to now 2 years, you’ve developed a really feel for what feels too shut. This isn’t April 2020. You will have realized quite a bit within the final 2 years."

For example of protected vacation gatherings, the consultants cited President Joe Biden's look final Tuesday at a celebration of 400, which was held on a hotel rooftop on account of COVID issues.

"It's essential to spend the vacations with household and mates," Merson mentioned. "However accomplish that correctly. That's my recommendation about journey."

Which means getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible, making use of fast testing when referred to as for, masking, handwashing, avoiding crowded indoor areas, and holding your distance from others.

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

Is Omicron enormously affecting youngsters?

Specialists are ready on information to search out out.

"The jury continues to be out on how virulent Omicron can be for youths," mentioned Celine R. Gounder, MD, a member of President Biden's COVID-19 activity drive and a medical assistant professor of drugs and infectious ailments at NYU Grossman Faculty of Medication. "We don't know."

The perfect factor dad and mom 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 towards Omicron?

No, Ghedin mentioned.

"Many of the monoclonal antibodies don’t appear to work very properly towards Omicron," she mentioned.

What's recognized about how infectious Omicron is?

"It seems to be essentially the most infectious variant thus far," mentioned Gounder.

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

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

Folks mustn’t depend 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 individual can get.)

If Omicron is much less virulent, isn't that excellent news?

Sure and no, Gounder mentioned.

"Even when it's a light illness, you may nonetheless have a number of deaths. Let's say COVID has a case fatality price of 1% and you’ve got 100 individuals who get contaminated — and one demise,” she mentioned.

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

"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 may very well 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 will be unable to get that info from a PCR check finished locally," Ghedin mentioned. "If you’re doing it via a analysis entity, they could present that info, however I extremely doubt it."

With extra individuals vaccinated now than prior to now, 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.'"

Presently 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 nations, the flu is endemic, Ghedin mentioned, ''and it's there year-round. We’re not there with SARS-CoV-2.”

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