March 24, 2023

The Omicron conundrum: Mild but messing up the world – Times of India

WASHINGTON: Top health officials from US, India, and world bodies are homing into the same page on the current status of the pandemic: The omicron coronavirus variant will infect “just about everybody” regardless of vaccination status, but those who are vaccinated will “very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well,” avoiding hospitalization and death.
“Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody,” top US infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci said in a talk at a Washington DC think-tank, the remarks echoing comments by leading epidemiologists in India. The WHO predicted on Tuesday that the omicron variant will have infected more than half of the population in the European region in the next six to eight weeks, if current trends hold.
That does not mean letting down one’s guard or, as some healthcare professions have suggested, willfully getting infected. “Those who are still unvaccinated are going to get the brunt of the severe aspect of this. And although it is less severe on a case-by-case basis, when you quantitatively have so many people who are infected, a fraction of them are going to die,” Fauci warned in a talk at a Washington DC think-tank amid mass anxiety and confusion on the US over how to get past the Omicron upsurge.
Experts pointed to the difference between “Everyone will be exposed to Omicron” vs “Everyone will get Omicron.” The former should promote appropriate caution till surge ends, including getting vaccines and boosters, wearing N95 masks, and avoiding promiscuous interaction. Believing in the inevitability of the latter would only promote counterproductive behavior and overwhelm the health care system.
However, although the Omicron variant is widely accepted now as being relatively mild, continued mandates and protocols to contain its spread is causing huge worker shortages across US, particularly in the education and healthcare sectors.
In some school districts, parents are being asked to substitute for teachers and school bus drivers who are isolating after getting infected, even as millions of fearful parents are keeping children home even if they are not infected, disrupting their own work schedule. Meanwhile, many families are anxiously awaiting a vaccine for kids aged 6 months to five years, the only demographic yet to receive a vaccine shot.
The stress that parents are going through emerged in a strange incident in Texas when when a 41-year old mother who also happens to be a teacher took her 13-year old son who had tested positive for the virus at home to a clinic for retesting in the trunk of her car to avoid exposure. She is facing a felony charge of endangering a child.
Accepting that most people will inevitably end up getting Covid, US officials are now focusing on trying to make sure essential services such as hospitals, transportation, and grocery stores continue to function. But that is becoming harder since even those asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic are asked to isolate and their primary contacts are asked to quarantine.

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