Is omicron burning out?

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 4:25 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - There’s a potential silver lining to the dramatically fast spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant. A rapid drop in cases in the near future would follow global trends.

But what’s likely to come after that is keeping health experts from saying an end to the pandemic is in sight.

Doctors and scientists have already seen signs that the omicron surge has peaked in Britain. Prevea president/CEO Dr. Ashok Rai says Wisconsin’s peak should be at the end of January or early February.

“Because of how omicron spreads and how rapidly it does, and how many people it infects, it is expected and has shown in other countries and some of our own states right now that it’s a rapid up and a rapid down,” Rai said.

Health experts say the dramatic rise and fall in omicron cases is because of the wildly contagious nature of the variant.

It’s led some to think that minimal restrictions and allowing the virus to infect more people may lead to COVID-19 cases declining faster. Froedert Hospital’s medical director of infection prevention and control, Dr. Mary Beth Graham, said that’s irresponsible. “I think that is profoundly irresponsible to put that out the way that they said it. The reason is that it gives the impression that, ‘Hey, stop wearing your mask. Go out. Do whatever you want to do. Everybody let’s just all get infected with COVID and then we’ll be over it. It’s gotten everybody so we don’t need to do anything.’”

Omicron cases are still on the rise in Wisconsin, reaching a record over 13,000 new cases identified Thursday.

Doctors still stress vaccination is the best way to keep yourself out of the hospital and provide some protection against possible variants in the future.

“Every new variant, if it’s going to become dominant and replace the previous variant, it needs to have some selective advantage. Infectiousness is one of them. The other thing that can give a new variant an advantage is if it has that combination of mutations that allows it to escape the antibodies that people have,” Ajay Seithi with Population Health Sciences at the U.W. School of Medicine & Public Health.

“What worries me the most about just this sheer level of disease, and that means sheer level of replication, is that just from an odds standpoint, another variant could come up much higher with a probability of that than we’ve had in the previous surges,” Dr. Rai said.

Health experts also emphasize that winter weather, which drives people indoors, is also driving a peak in COVID-19 here and in other cold weather states.

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