Yes, many Utahns are already getting COVID-19 even if they are vaccinated and boosted against the virus, thanks to an incredibly transmissible omicron variant that’s traveling across the state and sending cases Thursday to nearly 13,000.
But no, health experts say, that doesn’t mean Utah should give up protecting themselves and others from COVID-19 by staying up to date on their footage, wearing masks and avoiding crowds — even if most people are likely to eventually catch the virus. .
“Our advice is for people to take measures, such as vaccinate and boost or wear masks in public, to prevent themselves from contracting COVID-19,” said Tom Hodachko, a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health, though the agency has no position on whether Most Utahns will have omicrons.
Earlier this week, Biden administration officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, said most people would contract the virus.
“Virtually everyone is going to end up getting injured and potentially getting infected,” Fauci said during a White House briefing on Wednesday:
Han Kim, professor of public health at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, agrees.
“Eventually, most of us will end up getting omicron because it is highly contagious, even if we do all the right things,” Kim said, adding that one person with omicron is expected to infect another 10 people, making it “one of the most infectious airborne diseases.” Which we know is, “almost as contagious as measles.
At the same time, he said, the omicron appears to be milder than previous variants, so those infected “are more likely to go about their daily business even though they are releasing the virus, either because they are asymptomatic or have such a mild illness, combined with the fact that we We have very little mitigation.”
The state’s health care systems are overwhelmed by omicrons, because the massive numbers of infections may translate into as many if not more hospitalizations and possibly deaths as has happened in previous increases in more virulent variables such as delta. The virus first appeared in Utah about six weeks ago.
So while some may see Omicron as a sign that it is time to let their guard down and suffer through a bout of Omicron to hasten the end of the pandemic, the professor cautioned that this is a bad idea. Not only are hospitals struggling, but COVID-19 treatments like monoclonal antibodies are very rare, and are being legalized.
“This is a disingenuous message to send because that’s the thing. If everyone just relaxes and gets out there, yeah, we’ll start peaking, peaking, peaking,” Kim said, but at a significant cost to the level of healthcare that can be provided.
The possibility of hospitals collapsing, he said, “is not an exaggeration in the way they are under stress.”
Kim said that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should take steps to avoid the virus, including wearing high-quality masks and avoiding crowds and other situations where the virus might spread, because “there is still a chance” of getting seriously ill.
Full vaccination followed by a booster dose is seen as providing the greatest protection against hospitalization and death. In Salt Lake County, cases are split between vaccinated and unvaccinated, but only 10% of those infected have been boosted.
Kim said the suggestion that most people will eventually develop oomicron “doesn’t change what we can do.”
The question of the extent of the recent increase came up on Tuesday during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing that addressed the new variables,
“I think it’s hard to address what is really happening right now, which is that most people will get COVID,” Acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Janet Woodcock told the committee in response to the suggestion that the administration’s responses to the pandemic have been devastating at this point. .
“What we need to do is make sure that hospitals can continue to operate and that transportation and other essential services are not disrupted while this is happening,” she said. “Then it would be a good time to reassess how we are dealing with this pandemic.”
A day later, Fauci, President Joe Biden’s medical advisor, told reporters that when the FDA commissioner said most people would eventually get Omicron, she wasn’t saying they would get sick, citing the effectiveness of vaccines and booster shots in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
Even once Omicron’s cases peak, Fauci said, COVID-19 will still be around.
We will not eradicate this. We’ve only done it with smallpox. We will not delete that; This only happens with massive immunization programs as we did with measles and vaccines. But in the end we will control it,” he said, referring to keeping infections at a low level.
On Thursday, 12,990 new cases reported by the state health department came a day after the state hit the 10,000 mark for daily cases for the first time. The omicron surge in the new year overshadowed the worst of the pandemic, when the number of daily cases approached 5,000 last winter.
The state’s seven-day rolling average of positive tests was 9,564 per day, and the seven-day rolling average of the percentage positivity of tests is 36.5% when all results are counted and 25.2% when multiple tests are excluded by an individual. State numbers do not include results from home test kits.
The state’s death toll from the virus is close to 4,000 people lost, with seven additional deaths reported Thursday. There are currently 638 people hospitalized in Utah with COVID-19, and 182 of them are in intensive care units.