Omicron in the US: what you need to know

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December 20, 2021 – Omicron coronavirus the variant has been found in dozens of countries across the country since it was first identified in South Africa in November, and many may be wondering: will it bypass the Delta and cause a winter wave? Is it still safe to get together with others for the holidays? How does this variant affect children?

Experts addressed these and other issues at a webinar hosted by New York University last week, acknowledging that it will take some time to find out all the key facts about Omicron.

But in the meantime, here’s what is known – and not – about Omicron in the rapidly changing COVID landscape.

How widespread is Omicron now?

According to Michael H. Merson, MD, visiting professor of global health at New York University School of Global Public, as of December 15, Omicron transfer to 80 countries has been reported Health. In the 35 states with Omicron housings, the numbers vary. Right now, New York and New Jersey are unveiling a variant of the Omicron with roughly four times the rate of the total rate in the country, he said. But whether the variant will remain in the “pockets” is unknown for now, he said.

How can people safely enjoy the holidays?

When it comes to deciding on gatherings and travel, “trust your instincts,” said Dr. Elodie Ghedin, head of the system genomics department at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an associate member of NYU faculty.

“In the past 2 years you have developed a sense of what seems too close to you. This is not April 2020. You have learned a lot in the last 2 years.”

As an example of safe holiday gatherings, experts cited the appearance of President Joe Biden last Tuesday at a party of 400 people held at the roof of the hotel due to concerns about COVID.

“It’s very important to spend the holidays with family and friends,” Merson said. “But do it wisely. That’s my travel advice.”

This means vaccination and reinforcement when you meet the conditions, the use of rapid testing when required, masking, hand washing, avoiding crowded interior spaces and keeping your distance from others.

It’s also important to know your level of risk and family and friends when planning the holidays, Merson said.

Does Omicron have a strong effect on children?

Experts are waiting for the data to find out.

“The jury still doesn’t know how virulent Omicron will be for children,” said Celine R. Gounder, MD, a member of President Biden’s working group for COVID-19 and clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. – We do not know.

The best thing parents can do now is vaccinate their eligible 5-year-olds and older, she said.

Do monoclonal antibody drugs work well against Omicron?

No, Ghedin said.

“Most monoclonal antibodies they don’t seem to work very well against Omicron, “she said.

What is known about how contagious Omicron is?

“It seems to be the most contagious variant so far,” Gounder said.

“Compared to Delta, Omicron seems to be 2-3 times more contagious.”

In other words, she said, you are likely to infect 2 to 3 times more people than if you are infected with other variants.

People should not count on their natural immunity from a previous COVID infection to protect them from the Omicron variant, Gounder said.

It also seems that the Omicron variant could be less virulent than the other variants, she said. (Virulence refers to how severe an infected person can get.)

If Omicron is less virulent, isn’t that good news?

Yes and no, Gounder said.

“Even if it’s a mild disease, you can still have a lot of deaths. Let’s say COVID has a mortality rate of 1% and you have 100 people getting infected – and one death,” she said.

Then let’s say the Omicron rate is 0.25%, but if you have 400 cases, since it’s more contagious, it’s still one death.

“We really have to be very careful when we say less deadly and less serious [when talking about Omicron]. At the population level, Omicron could be just as deadly as Delta even if it causes a mild illness, if there are more infected, ”she said.

If the COVID test is positive, will the results determine whether it is a Delta or Omicron variant?

“Unfortunately, you will not be able to get that information from a community PCR test,” Ghedin said. “If you’re doing it through a research entity, they could provide that information, but I highly doubt it.”

Given that more people have been vaccinated now than in the past, can we consider COVID to be endemic and not a pandemic, now?

No, said Gounder.

“We are not even close to endemic [status]“We’re still in a big pandemic,” she said. To say it is endemic now is the same as saying, ‘Let’s do nothing.’

Currently, the U.S. is at about 60% of the vaccinated population, she said.

“We really need to get to 85, 90 percent” before we get into endemics status.

In tropical countries, the flu is endemic, Ghedin said, ” and it’s there all year round. We are not there with SARS-CoV-2. ”

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