Dr. Rai talks omicron’s rapid spread, hospital situation, testing for holidays

Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 7:14 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The omicron variant of COVID-19 is now the dominant variant in the United States. And it spreads quickly.

“We’ve never seen in modern day a virus this transmissible. It’s somewhat comparable to the measles. Which means that there’s zero environment you can go to where you’re not going to get exposed to omicron,” says Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai.

Dr. Rai joined us on Action 2 News This Morning to discuss the importance of testing and vaccination--even for those who’ve had COVID-19 previously.

OMICRON

“We start talking about this variant and how transmissible it is. Last week we were talking about a couple of cases in Wisconsin, and just starting in New York, and last night the CDC saying it’s almost 75 percent of the cases we’re seeing. That’s how fast it spreads. We’ve never seen in modern day a virus this transmissible. It’s somewhat comparable to the measles. Which means that there’s zero environment you can go to where you’re not going to get exposed to omicron. It’s that transmissible, that prevalent out there.

“It’s going to be everywhere, and it is. I think we can stop thinking about when it’s going to happen. If we’re already at 75 percent yesterday, you can see 100 percent takeover by omicron by Christmas or even sooner than that.”

HOSPITALS

“We still have all those cases of delta in the hospital. The hospitals have not gone down in their total, you know, what’s going on with sickness or disease burden with COVID-19, and with so much spread of omicron we don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s hard to say that it’s not going to affect hospitalization. It will. We just don’t know what degree. It hasn’t to a great degree in New York or New Jersey, but it’s still early and something to watch.”

TESTING

“This goes right back to the beginning of the pandemic. We said what’s the number one tool you have? Vaccines and testing. It’s test, trace and isolate. If you’re positive, you need to isolate for 10 days. That’s the only way to even stem the spread here of what’s going on. Get tested, especially if you have symptoms or if you’re going to gather. It’s really important to get tested.”

HOLIDAY GATHERINGS

“We should reserve that PCR testing for those who are symptomatic and need to seek the health system. If you’re testing just to screen for gathering, the home testing, if you can get your hands on the kits, which hopefully more will come out from the government this week, you need to do more than one. It’s interesting. People look at those kits and they come in packages of two, that’s not for a husband and a wife. That’s really because you need serial testing, or say a test on Wednesday and Saturday morning or Thursday and Saturday morning, to really make sure with a good amount of confidence that you’re walking into that Christmas gathering negative. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.”

PCR TESTING TURNAROUND

“We decided through our state partnership to move that in house. So no longer are they being put on a courier, going to Madison, awaiting for the return time. They’re actually going on a courier and going to St. Vincent for the Prevea testing, which is funded by the state, so it’s free. We do hundreds and hundreds a day. It’s really good if you’re symptomatic or you’ve been exposed to somebody with COVID-19 and you’re vaccinated and about three-to-five days after that you should get tested. And you’ll get your PCR results back in less than 12 hours usually.

HOME TESTING

Dr. Rai did a podcast answering questions about home testing. CLICK HERE to listen.

“I think a lot of the questions are going to come out especially with some announcements today from Washington about home testing, so we wanted to explain how to use it, when to use it, when not to use it and it’s really important for people to know that.”

ANTIBODIES AND NATURAL IMMUNITY

“I think we can take all the delta evidence and previous variant evidence away. Right now it’s omicron. If you look at the omicron evidence and you look at it from South Africa and recently from the United Kingdom, those that had what we’d say natural immunity--immunity derived from having the disease--fell significantly with omicron. So that level of protection is less than 20 percent if you’ve had it before. If you’ve had COVID, you need to get vaccinated. If you’ve been vaccinated, you need to get boosted. It’s the only protection against this variant. It’s very different than previous conversations.”

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