Surges in variant reported around the nation, world
Surges in the omicron variant have been reported around the nation and the world, and California health officials Thursday said the variant is present in 50% to 70% of new COVID-19 cases in parts of the state.
But the variant hasn’t been seen locally.
“There have not been any omicron cases detected in Santa Barbara County,” Ryyn Schumacher, assistant deputy director for community health for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, told the News-Press Thursday afternoon.
One case related to the omicron variant was reported last week in San Luis Obispo County.
Elsewhere in the nation and overseas, an increase in COVID-19 cases was attributed to the omicron variant. New Jersey, for example, reported 15,482 new cases — a 59% increase in a single day. France reported 88,00 new cases, and Italy sasw almost 45,000 new cases.
The omicron variant now makes up 73% of the nation’s COVID-19 cases and is seen as the dominant variant.
Concern over the variant is affecting the New Year’s Eve celebration in New York City.
A recent press release from New York Mayor Bill De Blasio’s office announced that this year’s celebration in Times Square will be scaled back. The square typically holds 58,000 but will be limited to 15,000, and guests will not be allowed in the square until 3 p.m.
The event will be held outdoors and will require all visitors to wear masks and be fully vaccinated.
Overseas, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that a fourth dose would soon be rolled out for healthcare workers, those over 60 and those with suppressed immune systems. However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief scientific adviser, said he believes it is premature for the U.S. to be considering a fourth dose at this time.
According to a CNN report, Dr. Fauci sees the only exception would be a fourth dose for those who are severely immunocompromised.
However, Dr. Fauci did emphasize the importance of getting boosted. “Sometimes when people hear the word booster, they think it’s a luxury or an add on. It’s not. It really is an essential part of the optimal type of protection that you want. From the standpoint of if you want to be optimally protected, no doubt you should get boosted.”
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized Merck’s antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 for emergency use.
“The use of molnupiravir will be limited to situations where other authorized treatments are inaccessible or not ‘clinically appropriate,” said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a statement.
On Wednesday, studies were published that suggest that the omicron variant is less likely to cause hospitalization than the delta variant. Two of these studies were from England and Scotland, and the third study was out of South Africa.
“Research from Imperial College London indicates that people with PCR-confirmed omicron are 15-20% less likely to need admission to hospital, and 40-45% less likely to require a stay of one night or more,” reported HuffPost.