Not only do the holidays come with family you see once a year and presents, but this year the addition was the spread of Covid-19. Hospitals across the U.S. are feeling the wrath of the Omicron variant that is different from earlier COVID-19 surges. With travel numbers skyrocketing, so does the spread of germs. The national mood seemed to shift dramatically in the span of a few days. In cities across the U.S. cases are rising, employers are postponing return-to-office plans, and school systems are questioning closing their in-person schooling and moving back to remote classes. The lines for Covid tests seemed to have been growing longer by the day as many scrambled to book booster shot appointments or cancel Christmas travel plans. There was a significant shortage of at home tests as well, causing a limit on the amounts you can buy. The combination of travel plans with family, limiting tests, and the general spread of cases caused extreme anxiety to families in the U.S.
The difference between the former surges of Covid-19 and the one during the holidays is that it was less predictable. Some people who were double vaccinated and boosted reported to have intense symptoms and some people reported the complete opposite. The difference caught the nation by surprise, due to the confusion behind the new cases. With the spread of the new variant escalating, it was hard to determine who was infected with the strain of the virus. Fever and cough are less prevalent in Omicron cases versus previous strains, according to data from the U.K. at a health science research firm. More common Omicron symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, headaches, and fatigue. The majority of Omicron symptoms tend to be less severe than those of Delta and previous strains. This is believed to be true because there's evidence that it is less likely to invade your lung tissue which lessens your chance of it leading to pneumonia or a severe disease. Experts are also getting a firmer understanding of how the new variant infects others. One of the significant observations is that people who are exposed to the strain seem to get sick more quickly. Delta's incubation period was about four days, and the original variant had an incubation period of about five days. The new variant symptoms are shown to appear within two to three days after infection. The Omicron variant has defeated the previous records of positive cases in the U.S., proving it is high transmissibility compared with previous strains. Omicron is shown to be better at avoiding the current vaccines than the Delta variant, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, Statistics Denmark, and Statens Serum Institut. This study reveals that the Omicron variant was found to be 2.7 to 3.7 times as infectious as the Delta variant towards vaccinated people. The research explains the surge of positive test results from vaccinated people.
Unfortunately, even with the holidays over, the Covid-19 rates are still remarkably high with 860,114 new cases just reported today (1/13/2022). As covid progresses many schools are using techniques such as increasing air flow, enforcing proper mask wear, and reducing the amount of students in one place at a time. The best we can do as a community is to promote social distancing, mask use, and vaccinations.
Researchers found that study participants who were partially or fully vaccinated with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at the time of infection had a viral load that was 40% less than that of unvaccinated participants. A Viral load is the amount of SARS-CoV-2 virus found in a test sample. It does not specify how contagious someone is, though early COVID-19 research reveals that a viral load could play a role in disease severity and secondary transmission. Another benefit of the vaccine was recently announced when the CDC stated that individuals who have received both shots and a booster do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure around others.
As a result of the difficult holidays and return to school plans, we must continue to do our part to ensure safety for ourselves and others. Stay safe!