Viewpoint: Omicron demands a nuanced frame of mind — and a clear plan
Molly Gamble – (FROM BECKER)
Panic or indifference might be understandable reactions to a pending wave of the COVID-19 variant of omicron in the United States. But neither is helpful, according to Ashish Jha, MD.
The frame of mind needed to navigate this wave over the next two months lies somewhere in the middle, he argues.
“We will see cases rise rapidly in the next few weeks, likely peaking sometime in mid-January,” Dr. Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health in Providence, R.I., wrote in an op-ed for The Atlantic published Dec. 19. “With any luck, cases will then fall as quickly as they rose, getting to very low numbers by the end of February. All of this suggests that the work ahead is to manage the next six to eight weeks.”
Three goals lie at the heart of Dr. Jha’s response strategy: preventing deaths, protecting hospitals from overwhelming caseloads, and keeping schools and businesses open. Four actions to support these goals, as presented by Dr. Jha, are listed below:
1. Increase COVID-19 vaccinations. It’s clear that protection for adults against the delta and omicron variants of COVID-19 requires three doses of mRNA vaccines or at least two doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. “This is not novel; lots of vaccines require three or even four doses,” Dr. Jha wrote. “Unfortunately, this idea has not yet settled into the minds of most Americans.” As of Dec. 20, about 30 percent of the fully vaccinated population in the U.S. has received a booster dose, according to the CDC.
2. Increase use of rapid COVID-19 tests. The growing demand for rapid, at-home tests for infection detection might involve government intervention. “The government must use all of its powers to get more tests into the marketplace and into homes,” according to Dr. Jha. “The Biden administration is making important strides here. It needs to keep going. Booster uptake and widespread availability of testing will help reduce the strain on hospitals.”
3. Establish a clear strategy for schools. Dr. Jha says the strategy in which schools send entire classrooms home for two weeks after one infection is detected in a classroom “will be unsustainable amid the wave of infections that will follow the school holidays.” He supports a test-to-stay strategy, in which students exposed to infected classmates continue to attend for in-person learning as long as they test negative with regular rapid tests.
4. Make modest sacrifices. The upcoming weeks will require tradeoffs to prevent unnecessary spread of infections, such as avoiding large parties and other unmasked indoor gatherings, Dr. Jha wrote. “During this omicron wave, we can’t do everything we’d want to do if the pandemic were over. But we can do so much, and far more safely than at the beginning of the pandemic.” While large indoor holiday gatherings with eating and drinking should probably be canceled, he says Americans should feel comfortable seeing friends and family — “as long as everyone eligible is vaccinated and boosted, and uses rapid testing as an additional layer of protection.”
SCATTERSHOTING COVID IN THE NY TIMES THIS AM:
In New York, reports of new coronavirus cases shot up more than 80 percent over two weeks. Rhode Island, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, is also now the U.S. state with the most cases per capita in recent days…The only vaccines that appear to be effective against catching the Omicron variant in the first place are those made by Pfizer and Moderna, reinforced by a booster. Today, Moderna released laboratory data showing that its booster significantly raises the level of antibodies against Omicron…The vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, and those manufactured in China and Russia, will probably not protect against Omicron infections. But they will likely prevent those who are infected from getting seriously ill…Pfizer has reported that its pill, called Paxlovid, can bind to its target protein in Omicron just as well as it does with other variants. Belgian researchers have reported that the drug works against the new variant in cell cultures…
WHICH VACCINE SHOULD YOU TAKE AFTER A SINGLE J&J SHOT
”Opinion: Finally, an answer for Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients. Here’s what I chose.”
ON TESTING FROM THE ATLANTIC
1. With at-home tests, you trade accuracy for convenience.
2. At-home tests are most useful when a person has symptoms.
3. They’re less accurate when used as screeners by people who feel fine.
4. At-home tests might be your only option.
5. All tests are mere snapshots of a moment in time.
6. Omicron is making things even trickier.
”…Tests cannot predict the future. The minute that swab goes into your nose—that is what the result is going to be giving you information on. We know this virus can replicate super quickly, especially if we’re talking about something like Omicron or Delta. A person can test negative in the morning and have a blazing positive result by the evening….We are still figuring out how quickly this variant spreads both within individual people and between different people. But based on what we know so far, it seems to be moving super fast, and there seems to be some indication that people can go from not contagious to quite contagious very quickly. And if that’s the case, then that means that negative test results actually expire sooner.”
FROM NPR THIS AM: ”The U.S. government plans to buy a half-billion at-home COVID test kits and mail them to people who want them, with deliveries beginning in January.”
COVID VACCINATION PROTECTED VETS FROM DEATH IN LARGE STUDY
”In conclusion, in an elderly population of U.S. veterans with high comorbidity burden, COVID-19 VE against infection was substantially lower than previously reported, but effectiveness against death was very high.
NEW MASK INFORMATION:
”…The KF94 mask is most comparable to a hybrid of the medical-grade N95 masks and the more common cotton masks, with four layers of filtration as opposed to three. The “KF” in the name stands for Korea Filter, as that is where the masks originated and are produced for the most part for now…” FROM VARIOUS SOURCES INCLUDING CDC.
(J. Harris: I bought a large package of KF94 Masks and found they fit tighter but left more space at my mouth and nose which made it easier to breathe. They can also be easily hooked to the button I sewed on my ball cap which gives an even better fit and doesn’t pull on my ears. My Norwegian housekeeper also likes the larger pocket for breathing as well as the tight fit. The articles that I have read say to get South Korean made masks, not the knockoffs. )
AND LAST BUT NOT LEASED:
Dennis Rodman confronted by police over airplane mask issue
Really handsome guys with rings in their lips and ears don’t need masks.
Besides, tough guys don’t get Covid!
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