While every Who down in Who-ville likes Christmas a lot, we know that COVID does not.
There is a lot of news happening right now around Omicron that either sounds great or horrible, which spreads a lot of misinformation or misunderstanding about the pandemic and what to do.
Will Omicron be a Christmas miracle and the potential end to the pandemic?
To find out, let us look at the entire picture of what is happening now, what we know and don’t know, and then look at what may happen in the next couple months.
What Is Happening Now?
According to the CDC, the Omicron variant is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in the US accounting for over 73% of new coronavirus cases just 20 days since the first US detection. The week prior saw Omicron estimated to be just 12.6% of the circulating virus.
As of Monday, 48 states have reported cases of Omicron, with Oklahoma and South Dakota likely to have detection soon.
While Omicron is currently the dominant strain, hospitalizations and deaths trends will not reflect Omicron for another three to four weeks.
So, what do we know about the healthcare system?
- Delta is still the prominent strain causing hospitalizations right now
- Hospitalizations and deaths are still likely to rise in the next few weeks based on the increase in Delta cases over the first few weeks in December
- Healthcare system is straining right now with 1 in 6 hospitals reporting critical staffing shortages and nearly 80% of ICU beds as full
- Sadly, Monday we also received the first confirmed US death related to the Omicron variant with an unvaccinated Texas man in his 50’s that had been infected before
Vaccination rates in the U.S.
As of Dec 13, 2021, 17% of Americans aged 5 and older are boosted or received their 3rd dose, which means 83% of Americans are not protected as best as possible for the winter surge.
The data last week looks like this:
- 30% (89.5 million) are eligible to get a booster shot but haven’t yet
- 19% (58.3 million) received two doses but are not eligible for a booster yet
- 23% (73 million) are unvaccinated
- 12% only received the first dose
The latest CDC data (since the Delta surge) has found that unvaccinated people face a 10 times greater risk of testing positive and 20 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people who have also received a booster.
The main takeaway: the best protection is being fully vaccinated and receiving a booster shot, which you can get a CNS Occupational Medicine. Employers, we recommend testing with PCR tests that provide the most accurate results so you can react responsibly and limit COVID outbreaks at the workplace.
But what will this look like with Omicron becoming the dominant strain?
What do we know about Omicron?
The latest data shows that Omicron, being 4 times more transmissible than Delta, is spreading very quickly and is also infecting people that have received vaccines.
However, the people who have had two shots, or were recently sick with COVID, saw a 70% chance of not getting severe disease or symptomatic infection. In most cases, you may not feel very sick or need to go to the hospital.
But, even if you are boosted, it seems you can still get Omicron and can pass it on to others.
One researcher put it this way, “Although Omicron is less severe than Delta, it is so infectious that it may lead to a higher volume of severe illness and death, even though the virus itself may be less pathogenic. This is because of the sheer volume of cases we may see with Omicron.”
To better understand this, let us look at a quick example.
- If Delta infections equal 50,000 cases per day, and 10% (5,000 people) go to a hospital, Omicron could see 1,000,000 infections per day and 1% (10,000 people) going to a hospital.
This example shows the straining healthcare system dealing with twice as many patients than with Delta.
What we don’t know about Omicron?
There are a few important factors we do not know yet about Omicron.
- Will there be long-COVID issues like with Alpha and Delta strains?
- Will vaccines and boosters offer protection longer that one month? Omicron has only been detected about 30 days ago, will efficacy last 3 months through the end of winter or longer?
- Do home testing kits sufficiently test for Omicron and how quickly or frequently would you need to use them?
The latest data still shows that PCR testing, like at our facility, is the best testing method for any COVID variant.
What will likely happen in the next couple months?
We are already seeing a lot of states reacting quickly to the rise of Omicron.
- NY state calls on federal government to help increase supply of COVID-19 test kits
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $100 incentive on Tuesday for any New York City resident who gets a COVID-19 booster shot at a city-run vaccination site. The incentive begins Tuesday and will run until Dec. 31, 2021.
- Boston municipal employees will no longer be able to opt out of a COVID-19 vaccine with regular testing. “There is nothing more American than coming together to ensure that we are taking care of each other.”
The quick reaction is needed since Omicron in the U.S. is expected to become 90%+ of cases by mid-January.
“Current increases in Omicron cases are likely to lead to a national surge in the coming weeks with peak daily numbers of new infections that could exceed previous peaks,” CDC says.
In the United Kingdom, we see Omicron doubling every 1.5 to 2.4 days, which means by mid-January, we could be having 1.3 million cases of Omicron in the U.S. per day.
Since Omicron is causing less severe illness, we should see a downward trend of hospitalizations and deaths possibly in February after a January peak in COVID cases at the end of January.
Additionally, Bill Gates laid out a scenario that could be the late Christmas miracle.
“At some point next year, COVID-19 will become an endemic disease in most places.”
If COVID becomes a disease of relatively low severity that constantly circulates throughout certain parts of the world, the pandemic phase could end in 2022.
There is a long way to go before we get there, so get vaccinated, get boosted, and get tested if you are not feeling well.
We can help you get vaccinated or keep employees safe
CNS Occupational Medicine wants to keep you and your workers safe to keep your business running. Our knowledgeable examiners are focused on best-in-class customer service when it comes to treating workers and employers, creating long-term health and wellness.
We offer services to contribute to your company’s Return-to-Work Plan, including pre-shift screenings meant to test employees before starting their shifts. Risking the health of your employees and your business is not worth it.
- Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine
- Pre-hire screenings
- Pre-employment DOT Physicals and HAZWOPER Physicals
- Pre-Shift Screenings
- Audiometric testing
- Respiratory/Spirometry Physicals
- Drug and alcohol testing programs
- OSHA compliant services
- Flu Vaccinations
- Antibody Testing
- COVID-19 PCR Tests(99.9% accuracy, 24-48 hour turnaround)
- Rapid Antigen Testing
- and more
Start your customized health plan to meet your business needs and keep your employees healthy and safe.