It has been a month or so since I made my previous COVID update post. A lot has happened with the pandemic globally since then!
In late November, the Omicron variant of the virus was found in South Africa. Since then, it has been detected in many other countries, including mine: the United States. In fact, it has spread enough that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 13% of all cases in New York and New Jersey are from Omicron. The Delta variant is still the dominant one, both locally and nationally, but Omicron is spreading quickly, especially in my part of the United States.
I still feel like there is so much to learn about Omicron, and perhaps that relative lack of knowledge, even now, is leading to some level of fear. The indications we have received from a major South African study is that this variant is more resistant to vaccines than previous variants yet seems to overall result in less serious infections. However, there is still a lot to learn as we are in the early days of this variant. Furthermore, it must be pointed out that even with the increased vaccine resistance, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine may offer 70% protection against hospitalizations from the virus.
The aforementioned statistic creates some hope that maybe, just maybe being fully vaccinated and boosted will provide greater protection yet against serious infections from the virus. But we will need to wait and see.
Of course, vaccination is not the only layer of protection. Things like masks and good indoor ventilation can act as further layers of protection against the virus as many of us attempt to achieve, as one priest I heard recently call it, a “fragile normal.” And it is very fragile, as many of us are trying to do the activities we did before the pandemic, such as visit family, without trying to endanger others around us by getting the virus. With Omicron, that normal may be as fragile as ever.
Part of that fragile normal includes your needing to wear a mask in New York State if you are in a place that is not your home and does not require full vaccination proof (like a grocery store). All I will say there is that I’m grateful that I don’t live in one of the parts of New York State where counties are saying that they won’t enforce the mandate, and where many if not most people are anti-masking.
But that is not the only thing I’m grateful for this holiday season. I’m also grateful that the vaccination rate is higher where I am than in many other parts of the country. And I’m grateful that the friends I have and the groups I am a part of are, by-in-large, pro-vaccine. I know some are not so lucky.
Speaking of holidays, I will not be writing a regular Monday blog post next week, but I will do my yearly wrap-up blog post a week from today.