“Sometimes a rapid-fire could burn through very quickly,” says Dr. David Ho of the omicron variant, “but then put itself out.”
The high-transmission rate of the omicron variant of COVID-19 could potentially mean that as it rips its way through the U.S. population leaving antibodies in its wake, herd immunity may actually be possible.
In a recent CNBC report, Dr. David Ho, a world-renowned virologist, posited that “Sometimes a rapid-fire could burn through very quickly but then put itself out.”
Dr. Ho, a Columbia University professor, said his theory is a speculative one, but it is agreed upon by other experts. Dr. Bruce Farber, Northwell Health’s chief of infectious diseases, said the “best-case scenario” of the coronavirus would be a highly contagious variant that doesn’t make most people particularly sick and creates a temporary baseline of immunity.
“It could certainly help end large spikes of deadly Covid with high hospitalizations,” he added.
In another interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases contended, per The New York Times, that the country’s focus should pivot away from case count numbers to the severity of cases. “As you get further on and the infections become less severe,” he said, “it is much more relevant to focus on the hospitalizations as opposed to the total number of cases.”
Despite being highly contagious, the omicron variant seems to cause less hospitalization and death —particularly among the vaccinated. The article notes that 62% of the U.S. population have received some form of a vaccine, but only 30% have received a booster shot, which improves protection.
Omicron is responsible for as many as 73% of COVID cases in the country. Just before Christmas, as cases were exploding, Dr. Fauci said in an appearance on Good Morning America that omicron is “truly unprecedented in the rapidity at which it spreads.”
While the idea of the coronavirus pandemic ending is promising, allowing the world to return to some semblance of normal life, scientists also warn that it is highly unlikely that COVID will ever disappear completely.
“This virus is so well adapted for human-to-human transmission that it’s never going to away,” Dr. Timothy Brewer says. “There will be periods when there will be more cases and [fewer] cases, just like it occurs with influenza every year.”
Eventually, disease authorities maintain, the coronavirus will weaken, and regular vaccination and continued anti-viral treatments, combined with immunity, will likely lessen its severity in the years that follow.
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