As the Omicron variant continues to burn through the U.S., a leading health expert is warning that nearly everyone will be exposed to the COVID-19 virus at some point. Here is the latest on the ongoing pandemic and the Omicron wave.
Fauci Issues Dire Warning
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that the virus will “find just about everybody” through either a positive infection or exposure. Fauci continues to reiterate that the unvaccinated will bear the brunt of the severe illness. He also warned that the virus is here to stay. However, the world will eventually learn how to control it so that everyone can live with it.
World Sets New COVID-19 RecordRead More »
While Omicron has been demonstrated to be milder in nature than previous strains, its level of contagion has made it more transmissible. Ghebreyesus also noted that weekly deaths have remained stable since October. There are roughly 50,000 deaths reported on a global scale each week. However, hospitalizations are starting to increase.
According to Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO Regional Director for Europe, the Omicron variant is predicted to infect over half of the population of Europe within the next six to eight weeks.
Updated Mask Guidance
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is planning to update its official recommendations on masks in the coming days. According to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, the organization is going to differentiate between the different levels of mask protection, including cloth, surgical, and N95 varieties.
Walensky said that while the CDC continues to maintain that any type of mask is better than no mask, she wants to encourage Americans to choose a well-fitting mask. The agency released new recommendations this week detailing that N95 and KN95 masks are more protective when compared to cloth or surgical masks.
The goal of the new planned guidance is to simply be able to inform Americans about the different types of masks that are available to them. Walensky said that the agency wants to be able to provide Americans with the most current data so that they can choose the mask that is the best fit for them. She asserted that the best mask is the one that you can tolerate all day long.
The administration of President Joe Biden is considering making these high quality masks more available to Americans.
Changes to California Healthcare Positive Worker Policy
The state of California’s public health department has updated its guidance regarding when health care workers can return to work after a positive test result. The new guidance allows these workers to return to work immediately if they are asymptomatic. The California Department of Health (CDPH) said that the updated guidance is in response to the rise in cases at the hands of the Omicron variant.
The state has been grappling with a severe shortage of health care workers because of the virus. The new recommendations are effective immediately and run through February 1. The CDPH also recommends that these positive and asymptomatic workers be assigned to treat patients diagnosed with COVID-19 already.
New COVID-19 Fatality Predictions
The CDC used data from a variety of sources to issue a prediction that more than 62,000 Americans could die of the virus over the following four weeks. This would equate to about 2,600 deaths per day, an increase of about 900 per day from the current levels. According to the latest data from John Hopkins University, the virus has killed over 842,000 Americans over the course of the pandemic.
Hospitalizations are also forecast to continue to rise. There are currently over 145,000 people hospitalized with the virus throughout the U.S.
D.C. Mayor Declares Limited Public Health Emergency
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a limited public health emergency on Tuesday, citing the increase in hospitalizations and strain to the healthcare system. Bowser said that the city’s emergency rooms were being overwhelmed and staff shortages are compounding the problem. Some facilities are reporting up to 25% of its staff out on COVID-19 leave. The directive allows the city to provide the necessary protections needed to deliver the appropriate resources as needed.
Schools Continue to Struggle with Staff Shortages
In addition to staffing shortages affecting hospitals, school districts across the nation are also grappling with this problem. Some districts have been forced to return to the online model temporarily because they do not have the available staffing onsite at school.
The Clark County School District in Nevada canceled classes on Friday and Tuesday because of extreme staffing shortages. As the largest school district in the state, it is home to over 300,000 students. Monday was a previously scheduled day off to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
On Wednesday, students in the country’s third-largest school district were back in the classroom for the first time since the holidays. The Chicago Teachers Union and city officials were able to reach a tentative agreement regarding how to safely deal with the virus in the classroom. The union agreed to return to school after officials promised weekly testing, KN95 masks for students and staff, and detailed parameters regarding when the district could pivot to remote learning.