The Omicron variant now makes up at least 3% of all new documented COVID-19 cases in the United States. Since the city reported its first case of the variant on December 1, another 30 unconfirmed Omicron infections might have already been recorded in San Francisco.
2021 felt like a year spent in a pandemic purgatory — a never-ending limbo as we continue to oscillate between surges of COVID-19 case numbers and the discovery of new Variants of Concerns (VOCs). When Omicron was first documented in San Francisco earlier this month, it was an unsettling discovery, albeit an inevitable one. It wasn’t an alien reality, either. When the Delta variant descended on California, case numbers surged and caused widespread concern.
Follow up of the 1st US Omicron superspreader event @Cornell, among students who were 97% vaccinated, now >1,300 cases at the University, no severe illness, neighboring town affected (similar 0-sign |)— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) December 18, 2021
by @AnilOza16 @cornellsun https://t.co/uBzMdc7FUz pic.twitter.com/JFYjuORxwD
But San Francisco's far better off (in terms of vaccination rates) than the majority of the country. As of publishing, 86% of San Francisco's residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 80% of the city is fully vaccinated. That said: Omicron's highly mutated state — which includes over 30 modifications to spike proteins found on the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, the strain all currently administered vaccines were designed around — means we could be in for the "riskiest time since March 2020."
“Fasten seat belts & up your precautions,” Dr. Robert Wachter, UCSF Department of Medicine chair, said in a tweet Friday. “This may be the riskiest time since March 2020.”
Wachter's tweet, too, comes in wake of the Chronicle reporting that San Francisco officials have apparently tallied an additional "30 probable but unconfirmed cases of Omicron." And that number might be an undercount, per the newspaper.
Anecdote showing how immune-escape-y Omicron is: spoke to NYC pal. Had Covid last yr & has had 3 mRNAs. Went to holiday parties last wk – proof of vax required but no masks. Today he tested pos. Feels flu-ish but luckily nothing worse.— Bob Wachter (@Bob_Wachter) December 18, 2021
It's a different foe – treat it w/ respect.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have reported that their vaccines demonstrated more than 90% efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection. Said in another way: Individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 reduced their chances of developing a symptomatic COVID-19 infection by 90%. Johnson and Johnson's single-dose vaccines showed much lower initial efficacy of 66% in reducing symptomatic COVID-19 infections.
All three of these vaccines have been shown to greatly reduce the risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19. But the efficacies of all these vaccines greatly wanes after five or six months.
This is one of the most confusing times of the pandemic, w/ a firehose of new Omicron data (lots of fab work on #medtwitter putting it into context). In this (long) 🧵, I'll offer my take on how the new information is changing my thinking & behavior.(1/25)— Bob Wachter (@Bob_Wachter) December 17, 2021
In California specifically, two-thirds of residents are fully vaccinated. As a population, we’re unquestionably not as vulnerable to the novel disease as we were this time in 2020. However, as large swaths of the world continue to remain unvaccinated — just 7.6% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — VOCs capable of more adequately infecting the vaccinated will continue to emerge.
What can you do to safeguard yourself from Omicron? Wachter suggests that if you do plan on traveling for Christmas in the U.S., wear an N-95 mask on the flight. Should you not have one, double-mask up, donning a medical-grade face mask first before layering it with a cloth one. Dining indoors in San Francisco is still somewhat risky, and he would recommend avoiding crowded events like sports games or concerts.
If you're eligible for a booster shot and haven’t received one — don't put it off anymore. (It's already too late to receive a booster to have it be fully in effect by the Christmas holiday; COVID-19 vaccine supplemental doses require between seven to ten days for them to have a complete immune response inside the body.) While most SF Walgreens and CVS locations don't have any booster shot appointments available for at least a week, drop-in locations, like the vaccination site at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, are still welcoming people interested in receiving a booster shot ASAP.
Top Photo: Getty Images/piola666