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GUEST TRIAL: Two years of COVID-19 and now omicron | Chroniclers

Damn it ! Two years of this bloody pandemic. A total of more than 53 million cases counted in the United States so far, and more cases are occurring every day than ever before as new waves sweep over us. Cancellation of air flights, exhaustion of health workers, closure of Broadway, warrants for vaccines and threatening masks. Changing and sometimes confusing directives from authorities on how best to run us. Uncertainty. Mistrust. Pandemic fatigue. No end in sight.

What are we to do with all of this? For what it’s worth, here’s how I think about some important things happening.

The omicron variant is growing enormously across the country. Horrible, given the number of sick people, how stressed our hospitals are, not to mention our tattered nerves. But listen: this wave can also be seen as moving towards containment of the pandemic. Some facts. First: yes, it’s super contagious, but it’s also less mean than the delta variant. With him among us, the likelihood of you getting infected is very high, especially if you are not good at masking and social distancing. But if you get it, and especially if you’ve been vaccinated, you are less likely to be seriously ill or die. Indeed, you can be infected and have no symptoms … while being able to spread the infection to those around you.

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Following Facts: Studying previous pandemics over the centuries shows us that it is customary for mutations to occur frequently in a viral pathogen, and for mutations to shift the pandemic into a more communicable and less nasty disease. The eventual evolution is towards a rather benign dominant strain which becomes endemic in the world. So, for example, we are still living with a descendant of the “Spanish” influenza that devastated the world in 1918. It is currently causing a fairly moderate wave of “influenza” every year. It’s a good COVID-19 prediction that we’ll live with for decades, if not centuries, with a descendant of the current variants that has turned into a fairly contagious but mild cold-like illness. Omicron is a step in this direction. Yeah!

But how do you deal with this nasty new wave now? How do we keep us safe, keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed, and also keep our society open for at least some business?

Certainly, we must continue to take COVID-19 very seriously. Although the omicron is less mean, it will still make many of us very sick. It will kill some of us again. Because many more will get it, it means that the number of sick and dying will remain high. Moreover, it hits our children harder than the previous variants. Our hospitals are about to crack under the pressure. More and more healthcare workers are falling ill with COVID-19. Others are exhausted. There is therefore a major public health disaster underway.

However, as bad as it is, we really do know how to best tame the impact of the pandemic. It is always transmitted in exactly the same way, and the countermeasures we need to take are exactly the same. Vaccines. Masks. Social distancing. Hand hygiene. They work! Please do them. I am vaccinated and boosted. I take care when I go for a walk, when I do my shopping, etc. But since I am careful, I can still get infected. I am old, vulnerable and could get sicker than stink. And I have a new grandson. I really don’t want your germs.

What about the role of testing? Right now, home test kits are hard to come by. It is hoped that great supplies will be available to us soon, and perhaps they will be provided for free. It will be great. The tests are easy to use and are very useful in certain circumstances. For example: Take a test if you start to feel bad with maybe just aches and fatigue, maybe with a headache and a mild fever, maybe a stuffy nose or cough. If the test is positive for COVID-19, you must be very careful not to spread the disease; you should isolate yourself. If it’s negative, you can just generally be cautious like you would before the pandemic – it’s just a cold or a hangover. Another example: take a test even if you are feeling well but are planning a big family reunion. Have everyone take a test. If your uncle is HIV positive, even though he is feeling fine and protesting loudly, he had better not join your party and isolate himself. Final example: A person known to be infected with COVID-19 can be tested after five days to document their departure, after which isolation is no longer necessary.

Speaking of quarantine guidelines, the CDC no longer says 10 days of isolation are needed even if the infected person is no longer showing symptoms. Now the CDC is only suggesting five days. Their changing advice is not a whim. It is based on studies of when and for how long a person with the average infection is contagious. Notably, such a person is more able to spread the disease for a few days before becoming ill, and then remains able to do so for perhaps 3 days after the onset of symptoms. Subsequently, it becomes non-contagious. This is the usual course. However, if an infected person still has symptoms at day five and the home test remains positive, it is best to stay in isolation until all of this is gone.

What about keeping the economy going, keeping our paychecks, keeping our restaurants open and social gatherings possible? What about the evolution of directives? What about the fact that we’re all so sick of this damn pandemic? No surprise, we all ask the same questions. But here are the answers. COVID-19 is here to stay for months, maybe years. We have to endure it. In the meantime, we are learning a lot, day by day. When science tells us, advice and guidelines can change. But it is certain that we now know that as long as the germ is dangerous, we must each protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities as best we can. No one will be safe until we hide, walk away and wash our hands and get vaccinated. The pandemic will only end when we all do much better. It sounds overwhelming, I know.

But start at home! If each of us is protected and protective, we can indeed maintain our economy and our socialization, and we can hasten the end of this scourge. Just do what’s smart and proven! Come on, we can do it … if we do it together.

Richard P. Leach, MD, is an internist, infectious disease consultant, and travel and tropical medicine specialist. He practiced in Glens Falls for 35 years, also serving as an infection control officer and epidemiologist at Glens Falls Hospital. Retiring from private practice in 2011, he continued to provide travel medicine advice at the Warren County clinic until COVID-19 forced it to be canceled. Warren County keeps him as medical director and consultant for the TB program. Dr Leach is known for his role as co-founder and chairman of the Adirondack AIDS Task Force in the 1980s and 1990s, as the founder and chairman of the Glens Falls medical mission and its Guatemala project in the 1990s. , as husband of Dr Loren Baim, as father of Christina Johnston, Timothy Leach, Molly Leach and Marta Leach, and as grandfather of Rhone and Thatcher James, 3 weeks.


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