Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Dr. Frank McGeorge has been keeping viewers up-to-date and informed on all fronts. He’s been answering your questions about the vaccine, the vaccination process and more.
Has omicron changed the COVID pandemic? How much do case counts matter at this point? Are cloth masks as effective against omicron as the other variants?
Omicron has changed so many things about the pandemic that it’s almost like dealing with a different virus. It was first identified in South Africa.
Previous variants have taken several weeks to reach a peak, creating more of a hump on a graph of new cases. Omicron, because it spreads so quickly. is causing the steepest spike in cases of all the variants.
If you look at a graph of new cases in South Africa, the omicron variant peak has already occurred about three weeks from the point it took off. Cases there are already decreasing.
In the United States, we had a much higher baseline number of cases because of ongoing delta spread. Once omicron was introduced into the U.S. our cases have also sharply spiked over roughly the past two weeks. It remains to be seen if we’ll peak in three weeks, like South Africa did.
Another important chart is the relationship of new cases to deaths that occurred from omicron in South Africa. Unlike with prior variant waves, the number of deaths didn’t increase dramatically. That’s one reason health officials believe omicron might not cause as severe an illness. So far in the U.S. we haven’t seen a spike in deaths either.
Large numbers of people will likely become infected with omicron, hopefully with less severe disease. It has the potential to generate widespread immunity. It is not the smartest way to develop widespread immunity compared to getting vaccinated.
Even though omicron may cause fewer deaths for every new case, the spike in new cases means there will still be an overwhelming burden on our healthcare system and deaths will continue. There’s also the broad disruption to society that widespread infection causes.
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