1) How Contagious is Omicron?
Omicron has proved to be more transmissible than Delta and more than able to outcompete Delta. In some places, like Florida, for instance, in just the past 2 weeks the rate of new cases has moved the state from among the lowest in the country to one of the highest rates.
2) Doesn’t Omicron cause less severe illness than Delta?
There is some data from other countries that suggest Omicron may cause a lower rate of severe illness- hospitalization, need for ventilator care, and death. But be aware- lower, if true, does not mean thatbad outcomes will not occur. More people will get infected by Omicron so that a lower percentage of severe illness will still mean a lot of severe illness. The bottom line — there may well be more people suffering bad outcomes and death with Omicron than with Delta
3) Won’t everyone get Omicron? Each variant has proven to be more resistant to immunity produced by infection and/or vaccination. With Omicron, more vaccinated people will get infected, and more previously infected will get re-infected. So far, most of those vaccinated and re-infected have had a milder illness. Those not previously infected or vaccinated will likely suffer the most severe outcomes.
4) Why don’t the vaccines work?
Two-dose vaccines proved very effective for not so much with Omicron with reduced effectiveness against infection at 35%. Boosters increase immunity to around 75%, near the previously protective levels seen with Delta. Protection against hospitalization and death continues to be about the same. Bottom line- if you have been vaccinated with 2 doses, you should have a third dose to get that level of benefit.
5) If I already had Covid, am I not protected?
If you were previously infected, your immunity may last from 3-15 months. For will last around 6 months. Getting a booster results in the best level of immunity and protection. Bottom line — if previously infected more than 6 months ago and you don’t know your level of immunity, get a booster.
6) What should I do now?
Because of the increased chance for exposure and resulting infection, it is time to be careful in higher-risk situations whether vaccinated or not — crowded spaces, indoors, poorer ventilation, around those whose immune status you cannot know. The best move is to avoid such circumstances. Next best if you must be in such a situation is to avoid being a close contact — avoid being within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes not wearing a face-covering around those not wearing a face covering.
7) What should my family do when we get together?
If gathering with family and friends, make sure everyone agrees to be careful. Anyone with suggestive symptoms agrees to stay away. For everyone else attending, it’s better if everyone tests with a rapid antigen test a couple of days before the gathering and the morning of the gathering for a better chance that no one there is infected, contagious but not yet showing any symptoms
8) If I get can’t I just go to the hospital? --Healthcare and EMS systems are already strained, and we will just start seeing the effect from Christmas gatherings and travel by the end of this week, not to mention the effect from New Year and beyond. Add to that the impact of more people getting Omicron, including healthcare workers, which will further add to staffing shortages. Right now, it is in everyone’s best interest to do everything possible to not get infected because a strained healthcare and EMS affects everyone, Covid related or not. This has been the case for many weeks now, but it is no more important than right now.