WHAT are the ACTUAL RISKS with OMICRON VARIANTS?
By Alan M . Solomon, Ph.D.
Two new variants of the Omicron COVID are capable of reinfecting those who had recently been ill with an earlier version of Omicron. These are known as BA.4, and BA.5, which is actually more infectious. Per Dr. Robert Wachter, chairperson of UC San Francisco’s Department of Medicine: “This is one of the biggest implications of BA.5: A prior infection, including an Omicron infection as recent as last month, no longer provides robust protection from infection.” ( https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-07/how-to-protect-yourself-from-super-infectious-coronavirus-ba-5 )
As of July 9, BA.5 was an estimated 53.6% of new cases across the country for a weeklong period. This is CDC data. A month before that, this new subvariant was estimated to be less than 10% of new cases. This subvariant is a “different beast with a new superpower: enough alteration in the spike protein that immunity from either a prior vax or prior Omicron infection (including a recent infection) doesn’t offer much protection,” according to Dr. Wachter.
These steps can help:
- Vaccinations, including a first booster, and a second one if you’re eligible. This prevents more serious illness and hospitalization. The California Department of Health notes that unvaccinated individuals are more than five times more likely to become ill than vaccinated and boosted people. Unvaccinated are 7.5 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 14.5 times more likely to die. Current recommendations are a second booster for everyone over 50 years old, as well as immunocompromised people 12 and older; second boosters should be completed at least four months after the first. Vaccinations and boosters are less successful in preventing being ill, but they are very helpful in preventing more severe forms of the illness. Even though more targeted boosters are being developed now, due out in the fall, it’s recommended to get that second booster now, and then the new booster when it becomes available.
- Masks continue to offer protection in interior settings that are public: stores, restaurants, theaters, entertainment centers. Los Angeles County still requires masks on public transit and indoor transportation hubs. More stringent masking requirements may become necessary if the infection rate climbs significantly higher in LA County.
- Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoors. If it must be indoors, then ventilation helps, as do masks. Rapid tests at home close to the start of the gathering are also recommended.
While COVID “fatigue” is widespread and understandable at this point, continued caution and safe practices are highly recommended. Many people continue to experience many difficulties with depression, anxiety, sleep issues, substance use, domestic violence, and child abuse. IPN therapists will help or make referrals to get help as needed.
Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310 539-2772 or firstname.lastname@example.org Telehealth or in-person sessions are available.
Copyright 2022 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.