RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The CDC’s admission that the prevalence of the COVID-19 omicron variant was overstated should not give us a false sense of security, according to virologists and infectious disease specialists.
They said omicron is still a potent force and needs to be taken seriously.
The reason the CDC made its changes is that its “Nowcast” estimations were based on a computer model. By yesterday, it realized the model’s projections based on limited data were not living up to the actual infection rate of omicron.
However, experts said it’s just a matter of time before omicron infection rates explode.
“It will be 73 percent, and then 79 percent, then 90 percent, and probably 100 percent,” said Dr. David Wohl, a professor of infectious diseases at UNC.
Wohl believes omicron will overtake the other variants.
“We saw that with delta, and I expect that if we see what happens in other places happens here, we will see the vast majority of cases due to omicron,” he said.
Right now, COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Carolina are split about 50-50 between omicron and delta.
Experts who study the disease say, because some treatments work better than others, doctors need to know what’s infecting you.
“Knowing which variant you have helps your health care provider to tailor your therapy,” said Dr. Dirk Dittmer, who is a UNC Lineberger professor of virology. “I should add that most of the therapies will work regardless of which variant you have.”
“For the unvaccinated, both omicron and delta can be deadly,” Wohl said. “We should be very clear on that.”
In addition to the guidance change made regarding the rate of omicron infection, the CDC updated its guidance involving the isolation time needed after you are diagnosed with COVID-19.
The CDC previously said that 10 days in isolation were necessary after infection. Now, it’s revising that downward to five days before you can go out in public again.
“It’s saying we can have our cake and eat it, too,” Wohl said.
With a labor shortage caused in part by many infected people staying in isolation for 10 days, Wohl said the CDC is in effect saying, “Can we get people we know have symptoms or infected away from everyone else for a few days, but not long enough that it sabotages our workforce.”
Wohl said omicron has evolved to infect previous COVID-19 patients, as well as the vaccinated, but its effect on those people with antibodies is much less severe.
However, for the unvaccinated, an omicron infection is very different.
“There’s still a large pool of people who can get infected with it and end up on a ventilator,” he said.
Regardless of the variant, health care experts said we must treat the virus as one that is going to be with us for a long time,
Because most people infect others before they realize they have COVID-19, so for the time being, COVID-19 experts say we need to continue to get vaccinated and wear masks.