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Omicron may be seeing its peak

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 6:49 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - For those looking for a little good news amid the omicron wave, there is a bright spot.

“One could imagine that by next week, we might start to see a decrease in new cases,” said Dr. Joshua LaBaer, the director of ASU Biodesign, which tracks the virus. “It does look like the rate of growth, the acceleration, if you will, has slowed.”

There is a caveat to that bit of good news, however.

“That could be an early read and it could change tomorrow,” Dr. LaBaer added. “But at least it does look like we’re starting to approach a plateau.”

At this stage, at a time when case number have been doubling weekly, we’ll take a plateau.

But even if cases slow down, it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet. There are still hospitalizations to worry about because they are a lagging indicator.

“I’m not sure hospitalizations are going to respond quite as quickly,” said Dr. Joe Gerald, the Director of Health at the University of Arizona. “I don’t think we’ll peak in hospitalizations until the end of the month, first of February.”

And those hospitalizations are near a record now because even though omicron is thought to be a bit milder, it does have some serious effects.

“If people have other medical conditions, all kinds of medical conditions, omicron seems to be putting them over the edge and takes what was a moderate or well controlled condition and making it severe enough they need to get hospitalized,” Dr. LaBaer said.

And there’s that thing that omicron does not make people as sick as the delta variant.

“I want to emphasize that just because it’s milder, doesn’t make it mild” he said. “It’s still a bad bug.”

And another thing, having COVID-19 does not make one immune from getting omicron again.

“It pretty much doesn’t matter if anyone’s had COVID-19 in the past, that immunity does not seem to stop omicron,” said Dr. LaBaer.

There’s also the concern about inevitability, that some people believe they’re going to get it anyway so they might as well have a COVID party, infect everyone and get it over with.

That’s a pretty bad idea according to every doctor we’ve talked with.

“The disease affects different people differently,” said Dr. Gerald. “So even if the omicron variant comes and it’s not as severe for most people, there are still members of our community and members of most people’s families that are incredibly vulnerable to complications from COVID-19.”

And the longer the variant stays around, the better chance there will be another mutation.

“It has many ways to do that so that will naturally come up if we let the pandemic stretch on,” said Efren Lin, a virologist at Biodesign. “The key here is we really need to stop transmission, bring the cases down under control quickly.”

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