Omicron variant likely to surge in Seattle area as health officials urge booster shots

Health officials in King County are anticipating a likely surge of the fast-spreading Omicron COVID-19 variant, stated county health officer Dr. Jeffrey Duchin in a media briefing Wednesday. He urged individuals to get their booster shots and double down on masking and different measures.

“I believe we will assume that Omicron is pretty prevalent proper now, though it’s nonetheless at comparatively low ranges in contrast to Delta,” he stated. “Based mostly on what it’s carried out in every single place else we count on it can improve very quickly.”

The variant, first recognized in South Africa in November, is ready to turn out to be the dominant variant in a number of European international locations this week.

Early knowledge released Monday from a College of Washington lab that analyzes a big proportion of the state’s COVID-19 assessments discovered Omicron current in greater than 10% of virus-positive samples from Dec. 8. More recent samples present a prevalence of about 20%. The info wants to be confirmed by a extra thorough evaluation.

Duchin anticipates that vaccination will shield towards extreme illness. However he advises individuals who haven’t but obtained a booster to get one.

Early data from the UK counsel that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been roughly 35% efficient at stopping symptomatic an infection with Omicron however boosting with a 3rd dose bumped that up to 75% effectiveness.

Boosters are in excessive demand now, however King County has been growing its provide and supply of vaccine. The ten county-operated websites have elevated vaccination capability by 60% in the previous month.

“An important issues to learn about Omicron are that it spreads via the air the identical means as Delta, solely a complete lot higher, and vaccines are a very powerful factor we will do to scale back our threat,” stated Duchin. “However they have to be used in mixture with different methods.”

These methods embody the acquainted measures of masking, social distancing, getting examined and staying house when sick. “I believe that is notably unhealthy timing to to abandon your precautions round gatherings,” added Duchin.

Such measures are wanted to assist stop healthcare programs from being overwhelmed as flu season approaches and the Delta variant additionally circulates broadly, stated Duchin.

“When you’ve got so many individuals getting contaminated in such a short while, that’s an issue,” Duchin stated. “It’s notably an issue for the healthcare system, however may also be an issue for companies and others who depend on having sure variety of individuals doing their jobs on a given day.”

The comparatively excessive price of vaccination in King County could assist blunt the results of a surge, stated Duchin. 86% of individuals 16 and over have accomplished their vaccination sequence, and about two-thirds of people 65 and over have been boosted. Lower than 50% below 50 have but to obtain a booster.

There are some early hints from South Africa that the variant could trigger much less extreme illness, however it’s too early to know for certain.  

“Even a comparatively small proportion of significantly unwell can quickly add up to be a big quantity, and our healthcare system doesn’t have lots of surge capability in the intervening time,” stated Duchin.

County health officials are usually not anticipating implementing any new obligatory measures to scale back neighborhood transmission in the close to future. “At this level, we will do rather well with voluntary compliance,” stated Duchin. “However Omicron and Delta and COVID in normal are a bit unpredictable.”

He additionally advises individuals who have had previous COVID-19 an infection to even be vaccinated, as such people are extra vulnerable to Omicron in contrast to Delta. Lots of the Omicron instances in South Africa have been in previously-infected individuals.

In the meantime, corporations are delaying or abandoning return-to-office dates. Meta and Lyft introduced Tuesday that they might delay returning to the workplace, becoming a member of Docusign, Google and others. The organizers of January’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Convention, biotech’s largest annual convention, announced Wednesday they might be going to a virtual-only format. Apple has shut three stores due to COVID-19 instances amongst workers. 

Duchin urged individuals who haven’t gotten their first vaccines to get their shots to shield themselves and the neighborhood, and to keep away from overwhelming hospitals.

“There’s been a only a very tragic quantity of intentional anti-vaccine disinformation that has flooded the web and varied media channels,” Duchin stated. “That has a confused lots of people.”

Duchin added: “The actual threat stays to the unvaccinated.”

Duchin additionally supplied an replace on an outbreak of COVID-19 among high school wrestlers in Washington state.

Associated: COVID-19 misinformation still featured on Amazon, months after inquiries from lawmakers

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