Coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon, as cases are predicted to hit an all-time high, fueled by the “highly transmissible” Omicron variant. So how can you live safely with it swarming? Virus expert Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, appeared on MSNBC’s MTP Daily with host Chuck Todd to offer guidance and answer some life-saving questions. Read on for 6 pieces of life-saving advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
“There is, I would say, a moderate amount of data that it may be less severe,” said Dr. Jha of Omicron’s severity. “That’s good. We want it to be as sort of mild as possible. There is also some data out of the UK and, and Denmark, that maybe it’s not that much less severe. The big picture point here in my mind is if you are fully vaccinated and boosted, you are gonna have a mild course with this virus. If you are fully vaccinated, but not boosted, and you’re in a high risk group, I would still assume that you could end up having a pretty bad breakthrough. And if you’re unvaccinated, you really are on your own here. Like, you’re really taking risks. It’s not gonna be mild enough to get you through this without potentially getting you into trouble.”
If you are vaccinated, Dr. Jha says he feels “pretty good” about your travel: “Domestic travel’s pretty reasonable—wear a high quality mask because you don’t want to have a breakthrough, even if it’s mild, it’ll ruin your travel plans. So I would wear a high quality mask. I think that’s important. Obviously if you’re visiting high risk people, take extra precautions, use testing, if you can get the tests. But I don’t think a vaccinated, boosted person needs to be holed up at home right now. This is not March of 2020. We are in a very different place.” If you are unvaccinated, as he said, “you’re taking risks.”
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Omicron went up fast in South Africa, infected a lot of people, and is now falling fast. “Are we about to see Omicron burning through this country that fast, too? And, is there an upside to this?” asked Todd. “First of all, we don’t know if it’ll play out the same way, obviously,” said Dr. Jha. “I’m hoping that it will. I’m hoping that we’re not gonna see a big spike up and then a high plateau, but instead of climb down pretty quickly, but the dynamics of the virus are gonna be different in South Africa than they’re in the US. They’re in a different season, they’ve got a different population immunity profile. So I wouldn’t bet on it, but I’m hoping it is if it gets through us pretty quickly. Like it’ll cause a lot of disruption, but then the spike will be over and we’ll be able to kind of recoup from that. That would be much, much better than an ongoing sustained level of infection.”
“We wanna prevent severe illness and death and we wanna prevent Long COVID right. Because there is also the sum proportion of people who end up my best read of the data right now unvaccinated.” This is why it’s so essential you get vaccinated, he says. “People who have breakthroughs, they’re much less likely you to have long term complications of any kind. At some point, we’re gonna say our society’s pretty immunized, pretty protected. Maybe the highest risk nursing home residents continue to get a booster every six months. But maybe for the rest of us, knowing that if you have an infection it’s gonna be mild, you might be at home for two days, but you’ll be back in the office five days later, maybe that that’s a level of infection that we tolerate with lots and lots of other viruses that maybe we’re thinking about….If we can get COVID to be like a bad cold or a mild version of the flu: That’s a victory in my mind. I think then we stop obsessing about it, like we are right now.”
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“The early data from the UK is that Omicron has taken off in the UK, but Delta’s still there. One is not eliminating the other. We’re gonna have to see how this plays out. I do think Delta will also recede once we get into the new year because it’ll have infected so many people, but I think Delta and Omicron—I’m really worried that we’re probably gonna have maybe a third of all Americans, a quarter, a third of all Americans getting infected in the next couple of months.” will that lead to herd immunity? “It’s certainly gonna make a big difference in terms of getting high, high levels of population immunity. And that means future waves of a variant will have much less impact on us because of all the immunity we’re building up.”
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Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.