US coronavirus: Omicron could mark the end of the pandemic phase of Covid-19 – unless a certain scenario occurs, says Fauci

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An endemic disease is permanently present in a population but does not affect an alarming number of people and does not disrupt society, as is usually seen in a pandemic.

“But that would only be the case if we didn’t get another variant that evades the immune response to the previous variant,” Fauci told the Davos Agenda, a virtual event hosted this week by the World Economic Forum.

“We were lucky” that Omicron didn’t share some of the same characteristics as Delta, Fauci said. “But the sheer volume of people infected outweighs this rather lower level of pathogenicity.”

“It’s an open question whether or not Omicron will be the live virus vaccine that everyone is hoping for, because you have such variability with new variants emerging,” he said.

This does not mean that people should intentionally try to get the Omicron variant. Doctors say this is a bad idea for several reasons.
And that doesn’t mean the battle against Covid-19 is over – especially as overwhelmed hospitals delay elective surgeries and schools switch to remote learning.
Health systems – some facing critical staff shortages – have treated more Covid-19 patients in recent days than ever. At least 156,676 Covid-19 patients in the United States were hospitalized on Monday, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

And an average of 1,695 Americans have died from Covid-19 every day over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Schools struggling with Omicron surge

This week, more school districts — from Paterson, New Jersey, to Mobile, Alabama — switched to virtual learning as the Omicron variant exacerbates staffing shortages.
Desperate to fill teacher shortages, school districts are asking parents and various staff to become substitutes

In Texas, all schools and offices of the Houston Independent School District are closed Tuesday due to rising infections in the area, the school district announced on its website. Classes are expected to resume on Wednesday.

HISD encouraged students and staff to take “that extra day to mitigate potential exposure.”

But New York’s mayor stressed that classrooms in the nation’s largest school district will remain open – citing “good news” in the city’s fight against Covid-19.

“We haven’t won yet,” Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday, but “we’re winning.”

Covid-19 hospitalizations fell from around 6,500 on Jan. 11 to around 5,800 on Jan. 16, the city’s health commissioner, Dr. David Chokshi, said.

But Chokshi warned that Covid-19 numbers are still high, reinforcing the need for vaccinations.

While district-wide remote learning isn’t an option, the mayor said, the city is in discussions with the teachers’ union about the possibility of a remote option for sick children who get sick. isolate at home.

Meanwhile, a school mask mandate is under fire in Virginia.

Citing “individual liberty” and the availability of vaccines for K-12 students, new Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order stating that parents will be able to decide whether their child should wear a mask in class. , a public health departure from its predecessor. emergency order in August that masks must be worn in schools.
Virginia's new GOP governor meets resistance from some school districts planning to keep mask requirements

Several districts in Northern Virginia and the Richmond metro area announced they would reject the latest order, which is expected to begin Jan. 24.

“Our layered prevention strategies have proven effective in keeping transmission rates low in our schools,” Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a letter to the school community.

“The use of universal masks has proven effective in keeping Covid-19 transmission rates low in our schools and ensuring schools remain safe and open,” said a statement from Arlington Public Schools about. her decision.

And an email from Henrico County Public Schools to parents and guardians reads, “Mask use is an essential part of the division’s layered prevention measures,” while noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks in schools and federal law requires masks in school. the buses.

Progress on future vaccines moving forward

To get further ahead of the variants, new vaccines are being developed.

Moderna is expected to have data on its Omicron-specific Covid-19 vaccine in March, the company’s CEO, Stephane Bancel, said Monday.

“It should be in the clinic in the coming weeks. And we hope that in March we can have data to share with regulators to determine the next step,” he told a panel discussion. in Davos. .

A combined Covid-19 and flu booster from Moderna could also be available in some countries by fall 2023, Bancel said, but he cautioned that the deadline is a “best case scenario”.

Doctors say Covid-19 vaccines and booster doses are the most effective way to ward off serious complications from Covid-19.

Booster doses have successfully demonstrated the ability to boost a person’s antibody levels months after initial inoculations, helping to keep those at higher risk out of hospital.

Early data from Israel suggests that a fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines may cause an increase in antibodies – more than has been seen after a third dose – but that still might not be enough to protect against possible breakthrough infections caused by Omicron.

In December, Israel began testing a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccines for healthy participants ahead of the rollout of the additional booster to at-risk populations – marking the first such study in healthy people receiving a fourth dose.

“I think the decision to allow the fourth vaccine to vulnerable populations is probably correct,” Dr. Gili-Regev Yochay, director of the infection prevention control unit at Sheba Medical Center, said Monday. “It may provide a bit of benefit but probably not enough to support the decision to give it to the whole population, I would say.”

CNN’s Jacqueline Howard, John Bonifield, Virginia Langmaid, Kristina Sgueglia, Dan Merica, Eva McKend, Ryan Nobles, Livvy Doherty, Carma Hassan and Alex Medeiros contributed to this report.

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