A message from the Center for Closing the Health Gap
By Clyde E. Henderson, MD
Cincinnati Medical Association
Over the last thirteen days our country has been struck by catastrophic weather events, namely mountain blizzards and monsoon flooding in Hawaii, devastating tornadoes in KY, IL, TN, AR a week ago, and for the first time December tornadoes in IA and MN. The latter were part of a historic weather front which saw hurricane force (100 mph) winds across the upper Midwest. Many climatologists say that the increasing frequency of these historic meteorological events is a result of climate change fueled by the activities of man. America has ignored pleas about caring for our planet and so we reap.
Under the guise of science denial, political dogma, and rugged individualism 55 million unvacinated Americans are driving the current Delta and the incoming Omicron blizzard. We blew past the 800,000 Americans dead this past week as the COVID-19 news continues to come fast and furious. It is estimated that the deaths of 150,000 of the Americans who have died since the summer of 2021 did not have to happen because none of them were vaccinated. Hospitalizations are up 18% in the last two weeks and deaths are up 15%. Most of the cases in the US are caused by the Delta variant. Yet it is projected that the Omicron variant is likely to become the dominant variant in the US before the end of January, 2022. This behavior would be mimicking the variant’s behavior in the UK.
The Omicron is doubling in the USA every 2-3 days and makes up 3% of the COVID-19 cases in the US overall. There is considerable geographic variation typified by 13% of cases being Omicron in NJ and NY. Mathematically, even if Omicron proves to cause less severe infections, the characteristic of being more contagious still means significant stress on our healthcare system.
The current dramatic increase in COVID-19 is still being driven by the Delta variant. Ramifications of this current viral storm across the country is again life changing. A number of colleges have returned to remote learning. The NFL has postponed several games this weekend. Record numbers of professional players in football, basketball, and hockey are missing games because of virus protocols. A number of shows on Broadway have gone “dark” and the world famous Radio City Rockettes have canceled the remainder of their season.
The Cincinnati tristate area is not immune to the problems caused by COVID-19. The 40 hospitals in our region are reporting the highest number of patients hospitalized since January of 2021. Ninety-nine percent of their ICU beds are occupied. Governor DeWine announced the deployment of over a thousand National Guard personnel. They are being called upon to help relieve exhausted overwhelmed healthcare workers. The waiting times at local emergency rooms are increased and admitted patients are being housed in the ER due to inpatient beds being unavailable. Today Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced that the Omicron variant has been identified just across the Ohio River in Kenton and Campbell counties.
We still have the tools to fight this pandemic. The Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccines remain very effective against the Omicron variant, as far as preventing severe disease and hospitalization, if a person is fully vaccinated and has gotten their booster. Note that the CDC has declared that the mRNA vaccines are preferable to the J&J vaccine. This is due to the blood clots that have been concerns in women under 50 ask well has the loss of efficacy especially in the face of the new variants.
Experts are once again predicting that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Dr. Anthony Fauci says that Americans should brace for “a tough few weeks to months”. The impact of Omicron is yet to be fully realized AND there is still time before the next Greek letter variant rears its ugly head. Rest assured that it is coming!!. Delta showed increased transmissibility and virulence than prior strains. Omicron shows only more transmissibility so far. Will the next variant we see be one which demonstrates increased transmissibility, increased virulence, and immunity escape? Please get vaccinated and boosted so there will be fewer people in which this virus can proliferate and thus mutate.