Here’s proof that we’re on the right track.
By now, we all know a vaccinated person (or 10) who caught Omicron and spent the holidays in quarantine. As a response to the latest surge, some countries imposed strict 2020-era lockdowns, leaving many of us feeling hopeless as we braced for a third year of hell. But as we continue to learn more about what Omicron is capable of, the good news is actually outweighing the bad: Way fewer people are dying.
In fact, there were fewer COVID-related deaths yesterday than any time since October 2020, according to the New York Times, despite the fact that a staggering 95% of U.S. cases are Omicron. That’s largely because many more people have gotten vaccinated and also because Omicron seems to linger in the nose and throat as opposed to the lungs, according to new research. Because of how this variant moves, a U.K. study also showed people with Omicron were up to two-thirds less likely to be hospitalized than someone with Delta.
Those who are hospitalized, especially if they are vaccinated, are overwhelmingly not being hooked up to ventilators like they were during the first months of the pandemic. Although we learned from South Africa that Omicron was probably going to be milder, it was still too soon to tell. But now, several weeks into the surge, ICU hospitalizations in the U.K. have largely remained steady as cases skyrocket, so scientists can say with more certainty that Omicron is not the demon we feared.
Now, this isn’t a sign for you to throw a “COVID is over party” after you test positive. Although less people are dying than during the Delta surge, hospitals around the country are still being overwhelmed, albeit by less severe cases. More healthcare workers are calling out sick, leaving sparse resources for those who do end up with severe COVID. And in case it wasn’t clear, hospitals filled past capacity is bad news for all of us — it means less resources and care for anyone else with non-COVID related emergencies.
But overall, the vaccines are absolutely working, science is literally making miracles happen and beyond all the dismay, things seem to be going according to plan. My personal take away from all the new information is to move through this wave with cautious optimism: Cases are probably going to keep going up for the next few weeks, but this is not a sign that we are regressing. In fact, it might be the exact opposite: Omicron might have been the next logical step to weakening the virus and ending this pandemic for good.