Omicron Is Rising. But Remember, It’s Darkest Before the Dawn.

Here's why now is not the time to let our guard down.

Originally Published: 
omicron variant covid
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COVID fatigue is real, and so many of us are tired of the stress, worry, and restrictions the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our lives. With the Omicron variant running the show right now, in many states cases are higher than they’ve ever been.

Parents are, understandably, wondering when they can let their guard down at least a little bit and return to some normalcy — whether that version of normal is going to a coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon or an indoor play gym with the kids. The answer is not yet. Here’s what you need to know.

The Atlantic spoke with Justin Lessler, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who made it clear that we need to be very careful, even if cases hit a plateau and start to drop. He warns that when people hear cases are starting to go turn downward, “psychologically, they loosen up.” This is something we need to avoid.

“Masks come off. Schools, workplaces, and leisure venues reopen. People rejoin social circles, or kick-start new ones,” The Atlantic warns. “Smaller shifts such as these, multiplied by millions, can turn a waterfall decline into molasses.” In other words, scaling back on precautions at the start of a decline can prolong the overall surge, and that’s the very last thing we want. You’ll be able to go back to the routine you’ve developed for low levels of COVID soon, but doing so too early could screw us all over.

We’re likely not at the peak of Omicron yet. (If you’re looking at data from the past several days, be wary: Case reports are not always immediately accounted for during holidays.) And even if the peak is just around the corner, there’s more to the pandemic and the risks we need to consider. Yes, as many experts have been saying, it’s likely you and your kids will get COVID at some point. But putting off that date is better than letting your guard down and getting the disease now.

Why is that? For one, kids under five aren’t eligible for the vaccine yet, and two doses of the vaccine significantly improved how well people are able to handle a coronavirus infection.

Hospitals are full of people battling COVID, and many emergency rooms are dangerously overwhelmed. Keeping in mind that hospitalizations tend to lag behind new case reports, the danger of a COVID surge isn’t over when cases begin to decline. And delaying serious sickness allows more medicine that treats COVID to become available, increasing your odds of recovery. Add in staffing issues due to hospital personnel being sick with COVID or in quarantine because of exposure to the virus, and medical care is seeing major delays, with some people being turned away because there are no resources to care for them – which holds true for non-COVID reasons. (Avoiding the emergency room for any reason — not just COVID-19 — for ourselves and our kids at all costs is crucial right now, especially with a blood shortage.)

And of course, the country isn’t all in the same place with the Omicron wave; some may be on the slow decline while others are still ramping up.

We want our kids to have a life at least somewhat closer back to normal. But the reality is that we’re not there yet. We need to stay vigilant. We need to do what we can to avoid getting sick, and to prevent our kids from getting sick, too.

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