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UVA Health COVID Update: The Bottom Line for Dec. 23, 2021

elderly woman getting the covid vaccine


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Omicron Takes Over Almost Overnight

Just a few weeks ago, we detected the nation's first omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. This variant is now behind more than 70% of all COVID cases in the U.S. "This happened almost overnight and shows us how incredibly infectious omicron is, especially compared to delta, which had been the most infectious variant until now," says Bill Petri, MD, infectious disease expert.

Don't Let Omicron Be the Grinch Who Stole Christmas

If you are vaccinated and boosted and wear a mask, then travel over the holidays brings minimal risk. Dr. Petri shares: "My middle son and oldest daughter will be coming to visit from Oregon and because they are boosted, and everyone in our family is boosted, I have no concerns," he says.

Dr. Petri adds, "You can feel comfortable having an indoor family gathering where everyone has been vaccinated and boosted. If someone at the event has not been vaccinated and boosted, then they can take an at-home rapid test the day before. Keeping vulnerable people safe is important. An elderly relative who has not been vaccinated or boosted is up to 100X more likely to die from COVID-19, compared to a 40-year-old or younger unvaccinated relative."

What We Don't Know: Will Hospitalizations Go Up?

Get Vaccinated

Vaccines and boosters are the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID.

Omicron was first detected in South Africa. There, the number of people hospitalized with COVID is about 1/3 of what happened with the delta variant. It's not yet clear if this will hold true in the U.S. We're still early in the omicron wave of the pandemic. Also, the population of South Africa is younger and so more resistant to severe infection than in the U.S. "But let’s hope for the best, while planning for the worst," Petri says.

Bottom Line

We need to redouble our efforts to reduce our exposure, as omicron is incredibly more infectious than even delta. This means a return to wearing masks in indoor public spaces, even if vaccinated and boosted, and continuing social distancing and hand washing.

Covid Fact of the Week

Boosters are our best defense: 2 doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine gives us about 30% protection against infection from delta & omicron variants. A booster shot increases protection up to 75%.

preliminary data shows

Commitment to Keeping You Safe

UVA Health just announced it will require all team members to receive a COVID vaccine booster shot by February 1, 2022. "We firmly believe that increased immunity is the most important thing we can do to protect our team members, our patients, and our communities," says K. Craig Kent, MD, UVA Health Chief Executive Officer and UVA's Executive Vice President for Health Affairs.

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