The United States has just reported its highest Covid record following the rapid spread of new Delta and Omicron cases across the country. According to the New York Times, the daily average has climbed up to 301,472 as of December 29. In comparison, the country had around 252,000 average daily cases back on January 11, 2021.
The publication likewise added that case rates are “extremely high” in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Miami, Chicago, and Puerto Rico are also showing spikes in infection levels.
Vaccines and boosters as protection against Omicron
The surge caused by the two highly infectious variants have prompted health officials to encourage citizens to get vaccinated and receive boosters as a protection against Covid-19 and its variants.
In an interview with CNBC, Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said:
“It’s got over 50 mutations, and because of those mutations just being vaccinated with two doses may not be enough. And so we really do need people to get boosted in order to increase their protection, especially against severe disease and death with Omicron.”
Dr. Carlos Malvestutto, infectious diseases physician at the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center stressed that most patients who end up hospitalized are unvaccinated. He pointed out:
“A lot of the data that we’ve been looking at tells us that even though the virulence appears to be significantly lower, because of very high transmissibility, in terms of absolute numbers it’s likely to still lead to an increase in hospitalizations. If you are vaccinated and boosted, then you are in much better shape.”
“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” Walensky warned. “Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”
Should the “reduced sensitivity” of antigen tests be a cause of concern?
Meanwhile, some people have expressed worries about the Food and Drug Administration’s recent statement that while antigen tests are capable of detecting the Omicron variant, they may likely have “reduced sensitivity.” This is despite the fact that, in the same statement, the agency also emphasized that it “continues to authorize” the use of antigen tests – as long as people “use them in accordance with the instructions included.”
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering Director Bruce Tromberg explained:
“A change in sensitivity in the laboratory is not a guarantee that there’s a change in sensitivity from a clinical point of view. I would not recommend that people suddenly abandon their antigen tests.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious diseases expert, likewise said about the topic:
“When you’re dealing with an antigen test, everyone knows from the beginning that it is not, by the nature of the technical aspect of the test, as sensitive as a PCR… The fact that the sensitivity is diminished somewhat does not obviate the importance of the still advantage and usefulness of these tests under different circumstances.”