Don't fear omicron — it will burn out. Here are five ways to be unafraid

Dr. Siegel: Omicron will burn out by the end of this month

Dr. Marc Siegel discusses the impact of remote learning on children and the state of the pandemic as the new COVID variant surges.

We have reached another “magic” COVID number, and it isn’t good: More than a million new cases per day. 

For those who may say case numbers don’t matter, there are also more than a hundred thousand hospitalizations. So even though omicron has only about 20 percent the hospitalization rate as delta, since there are five times more cases now per day in the U.S. with omicron predominating, the hospitalization rate is therefore the same or greater.

Medical staff transport a patient from a COVID-19 ward to the intensive care unit to be put on a ventilator, at the Willis Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport, La., Aug. 17, 2021. The explosive increase in U.S. coronavirus case counts is raising alarm, but some experts believe the focus should instead be on COVID-19 hospital admissions. And those aren’t climbing as fast. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) 

Omicron is clearly milder than delta, and though there appears to be much less lung involvement, we don’t yet know how much long-COVID there is. And there appears to be more illness in children, especially toddlers whose upper respiratory tracts aren’t fully developed and who are too young to be vaccinated.

The “good” news is that at this rate this monster COVID wave will surely burn out over the next month especially when you consider there are likely five to ten times more cases than are being reported, given the lack of rapid tests.

So while we wait and hold our collective breath, what can we do in the meantime?

Here are five useful suggestions:

One: stop all the political fighting, bickering, and marginalization over masks, treatments, and vaccines. Let’s all agree once and for all that masks are useful in close quarters but limited, especially against such a wildly contagious variant as omicron. Upgrade your mask game to KN95 for use in close quarters.

Two: Our schools and our businesses must remain open or our entire economy and our collective psyches will be decimated. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that sending kids home or returning them from college decreases spread. In fact, just the opposite.

And public health isn’t just about a virus, it’s about the mental and physical damage that occurs when too many overreact to this virus. If there is an outbreak in a school, it makes sense to go remote temporarily while the situation is assessed but then quickly return to in-person learning once the mitigation strategy (rapid testing, vaccine compliance, ventilation, masking, distancing), has been reassessed and possibly improved.

Three: Upgrade your vaccine game. Former CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said to me in an interview on Doctor Radio on SiriusXM this week that he thinks antibody levels against the spike protein matter, that we need a standard immune titer to go by, and that recent boosters count for more immune protection. Of course recovery from infection gives added immunity that should be factored in, but the point is that more immunity you have against this virus and this variant the better, especially as it evades immunity more than previous variants.

Four: a letter to the government probably doesn’t mean what it used to, but someone needs to convince the Biden administration to eat some humble pie and begin an Operation Warp Speed immediately for therapeutics which are scarce (Sotrovimab, the monoclonal antibody that works against omicron, and Paxlovid, the anti-viral protease inhibitor pill), along with rapid antigen home tests in every home in America.

A negative rapid home test is the key to returning to work or school after omicron, not a semi-arbitrary five day CDC rule.

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