Omicron is coming. The latest coronavirus variant is actually here, if not yet in full force, and is up to five times as infectious as the delta variant, which was twice as infectious as its predecessor.
But if delta was a hurricane, omicron is shaping up as more of a tropical storm. And the more protected your house is–the more you’ve developed immunity through vaccines, boosters, prior infections–the less likely you are to get sick, let alone get gravely ill or die.
Omicron is no less serious, especially for the unvaccinated and immunocompromised. It is another serious wave of covid-19. But neither the nation nor individuals are where they were, regarding covid, two years ago when the pandemic began, so both the effects of this latest wave and the response to it is more measured.
“End of last week in Florida, 29,568 new cases,” Bob Snyder, who heads the Flagler Health Department, said in his weekly update on WNZF this morning. “This week, gosh, jumped to 125,201. For Flagler last week, 79 cases reported. This week, 172, so we went from 11 per day to 24 per day. This Omicron is the dominant variant nationwide now, so although it’s more transmissible, it appears to be not as severe.” There were eight patients at AdventHealth Palm Coast on a primary diagnosis of Covid at last count, six of them unvaccinated.
The number of people dying from the disease nationwide is still significant, averaging nearly 1,400 a day as of Dec. 23, and totaling 813,800 since the beginning of the pandemic. In Flagler, 277 people have died due to Covid since the beginning of the pandemic. The number attributable to omicron is not yet clear. But the focus on whether deaths are occurring due to omicron or not is misplaced.
“This is a tough area to communicate and I want I want to kind of rephrase a little bit how we talk about this,” Dr. Stephen Bickel, the medical director at the Flagler Health Department, cautioned. “There is not compelling evidence at this point that omicron in an unvaccinated and not previously infected patient is going to give you a milder course of illness. It’s possible. They thought that with delta in the beginning. That turned out not not to be the case. It’s very hard to sort this out because you’ve got to get a population of that group and see how they do. What we do know and can state unequivocally is that in the population we have now, which mostly consists of vaccinated or previously infected people, the course of illness with omicron is is milder, and I fully expect to see quite a disparity between case rates and hospitalization rates over the next month or two. We may we may hit 1,000 cases a week again in Flagler County. I don’t think we’re going to get near 100 cases in the hospital. I guess somewhere between 30 to 60. I’m throwing these numbers out. They could turn out to be totally wrong. But that’s just kind of my gut from here.”
Bickel explained his thinking: the vast majority of Flagler County residents have had covid at least once, have been vaccinated or both. So the novel coronavirus–novel to the immune system–is not so novel anymore. “We have partial herd immunity in most of the county,” Bickel said, “but that’s not enough to keep people from getting infected. If you are unvaccinated and have never been infected, you should not draw the conclusion that you don’t have to worry about omicron. The evidence for that is just not that strong. And that really could turn out to be not the case. If you’ve been vaccinated and especially been boosted, or you’ve been infected and vaccinated, yeah, there’s a good chance you’ll have a very mild or even asymptomatic case. That to me, that’s the message that people should take to heart.”
It is nevertheless time to mask up again in certain circumstances, reduce unnecessary mingling indoor where a lot of people gather, definitely get that booster shot or get vaccinated, if you’re not there yet. But some of the judgment calls are individual decisions based on particular circumstances. Snyder this morning disclosed that he had planned a Christmas Eve invitation for a few friends. The list had to be cut in half.
“It’s hard to give the nuanced stuff without kind of fear mongering,” Bickel said, addressing the vaccinated and boosted who are still faced with the question of whether to mask up, social distance, cancel social engagements. “I would say far and away the best protection is to be vaccinated, to be boosted, to be previously infected and vaccinated. That’s like the gold standard. And then the secondary is, let’s say you’re immunocompromised and you’ve been vaccinated, but not sure it worked, or to what extent. Or you haven’t been boosted and you are at some risk: That’s where these other measures come in place. If If a family is getting together and everybody’s vaccinated, everybody’s boosted–it depends what age children you have in the home, you have to take those things into consideration–it’s a different ballgame. And it’s kind of a personal decision. If you got infected, you probably have a mild case, maybe even asymptomatic. So you have to decide is it worth it for you to prevent that case by wearing an N-95. There are people out there who wear N-95s and have just started.”
The booster shot works to prevent infection “to a dramatic degree” for about three months, Bickel said–long enough to make it through the winter. He does not see the omicron wave going much past January.
So as with delta, the surge is again expected to more severely affect the unvaccinated: as of early November, the unvaccinated were 13 times more likely to die of a covid infection than the vaccinated.
AdventHealth tracks the Covid positivity rate at its CentraCare sites as a predictor of hospital activity later. “The positivity rate at CentraCare tends to lead what we see on the acute care side by approximately 2 weeks,” an internal email to CentraCare staff noted this week. “Over the last few days we have seen a significant increase in the percentage of positive tests in all regions, including Volusia County. We had been running around a 5% positivity rate, but this has increased over the last few days to 8.71% yesterday.” The email was sent on Dec. 20. “While we are still significantly below the percentage of positives we saw at the peak in July and August, if these trends continue and worsen, we will need to return to return to more restrictive visitor policies and return to more protective PPE policies.” (PPE stands for personal protective equipment.)
By Thursday, Dr. Vincent Hsu, AdventHealth’s executive director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiologist, was reporting a CentraCare positivity rate in Cenrral Florida of over 25 percent, and yet no increase yet in hospitalizations, which have hovered around 120 in the Central Florida system. ” But again, it’s still early,” Hsu said in a video briefing. “We don’t want to say this is done and over with. We are doing everything we can to make to prepare for a surge to make sure that in case there is a surge that we’re ready for that.”
Terry Shaw, AdventHealth’s president and CEO was just as direct in an internal email to staff on Dec. 22: “Data suggests the Omicron variant is five times more transmissible than the Delta variant, so we can anticipate a significant rise in cases, especially with the amount of travel and gatherings expected through the holidays. Currently, we’re seeing rising admissions in Kansas and in the Midwest, and now all but three counties in our Florida service areas have risen above the ‘moderate’ threshold for transmission. While this variant seems to cause milder symptoms, our AdventHealth Clinical leadership estimates the volume of cases that may arise will produce a surge in hospitalizations, given the number of people who remain unvaccinated.”
As it was in previous waves, the priority is to keep infections and hospitalizations in check. “What we want to try to do is to keep those numbers in the community as low as possible as well,” Hsu said. “We know that the present positivity rate is going up. We do know that there’s increased spread. We do know that it’s more infectious. So whether or not it’s causing more hospitalizations, certainly we’re glad that it’s not so far, but we want to make sure that the community is doing everything they can to prevent the spread from getting worse within the community.”
“In Flagler, 277 people have died due to Covid since the beginning of the pandemic. The number attributable to omicron is not yet clear. But the focus on whether deaths are occurring due to omicron or not is misplaced.”
Why wouldn’t they know the stats for each variant are ? Especially when they know enough to be able to discover & delineate each variant with Covid Variant toys for their meetings ? They can also detect Covid with a curbside test ? You would think with the samples they collected they would know this or be able to determine the strain of the virus anyone has with the next drilldown of the scientific process. I mean, they did detect infection enough to determine & credit that it should count as a Covid case ? Is that where the curiosity ends ?
The equivocating we’re getting from our health “experts” is unacceptable. The Flagler health director gives us his “gut” feeling the Omicron epidemic will have a “mild” impact. Do we know yet if anyone in the nation has died of Omicron. The media first said a guy in Houston died of it. Later, the health “experts” said he had Omicron in his body, but the cause of death was not yet determined. Should we have mandatory autopsies or blood tests on the deceased to get a handle of what’s happening?
Michael Cocchiola says
I don’t expect the anti-vaxxers to take Omicron any more seriously than COVID-Original or the Delta Variant. So they help keep infections high and delay the control of COVID in our community.
Good news is when they get sick they probably will not be creeping around burning books or ferreting out CRT within our schools.
Great comment! I no longer have sympathy for anyone who gets Covid.
Concerned Citizen says
Vaccinated and mask wearers are getting it as well.
So what your saying is you really don’t care about anyone at all. Because no one is immune to it.
Ray W. says
I sympathize with everyone who suffers a viral infection from any form of the SARS-Covid19 organism. I do not wish long haul Covid effects on anyone. I have commented before on my wife’s best friend, who still suffers from a significant but not complete loss of her sense of taste after emerging from her Covid infection last January; everything tastes like rotting garbage to her. She eats because she knows she has to eat, but each chew is quite unpleasant by her description. I still grieve over the loss of Judge Henderson and Marc Bernier. Maybe they both would still have died even with a vaccination. No one will ever be able to prove either possible outcome in an individual setting, because statistics do not apply to individual events. To group events, however, both men would likely still be alive had they been vaccinated. I didn’t agree totally with either person’s beliefs, but I knew them both for over a decade as decent human beings and I am lessened by their absence. I think everyone should consider approaching the suffering of others as a loss to us all, but I know that many FlaglerLive commenters differ in their views.
However, I will react to people like Concerned Citizen, who by arguing that no one is immune to the virus in tries to infer that masked and unmasked and vaccinated and unvaccinated people are equal in viral outcomes. Concerned Citizen would have a far better argument if he or she had argued that while no one is immune from infection, unvaccinated patients as a group statistically experience far worse outcomes than the vaccinated among us and that masking, while not perfect, offers statistically valid increased protections from being infected and from spreading infections that unmasked persons experience in less positive instances. Even a good argument should be abandoned in the face of a better argument and a better argument should be abandoned in the face of the best argument. Please choose the better arguments whenever possible, Concerned Citizen. It really doesn’t take much effort to point out that vaccinated people are better off as a group in the long term. Just like Governor DeSantis could easily take four or five seconds each day to ask people to become vaccinated, Concerned Citizen could take a few extra seconds to type into his or her comments that vaccinations and masking while in social situations works better than declining vaccines and rejecting masks. Not perfectly, just better.
Concerned Citizen says
My wife is a Physicans Assistant with a background in Infectious Disease.
Yes vaccines and masks offer some level of protection. However people are getting it and are still dying even after taking proper precautions. I was not advocating the disuse of masks and vaccines. I follow both. Please don’t put words in my mouth that aren’t there. I have lived this event from day 1 and have seen the toll it takes on not only victims but my wife and other care givers as well.
We also need to stop group blaming those who don’t vaccinate. Or mask. We don’t know the complete story behind why. The public only listens to the ill advised President we have. Or the media hype. We have several folks in our circle of friends who can’t vaccinate due to legitimate health reasons. But they still take the proper precations neccesary.
It’s interesting you chose to come after me. Instead of the callous and cruel remark made by Cynthia.
And I still stand by what I said. No one is immune to it. I lost a dear friend last year who took all precautions and still got it and died.
Deborah Coffey says
Your comment was dangerous. And, you think the President is ill-advised. Enough said for “going after you.”
Concerned Citizen says
And wishing people to get ill and possibly die is socially acceptable now?
We’ve sunk to a new low in society. I simply stated in response to Cynthia’s nasty comment that no one was immune. And that is a proven fact now. You can do all the right things and still get Covid. And still die from it. I have seen it first hand. So to sit there and wish illness on anybody just plain sucks really.
In regards to me being dangerous. I went and got the N95 masks and got the shots as soon as all this started. Because it was the right thing to do. I have people in my life I care about. Including a wife working long hours to try and keep others alive and well. I still socially distance and try to limit frequent trips. Am I frustrated it’s still going on? Yes. But now it seems it is what it isCould have would have. And hating on folks isn’t going to help at all. So to see that type of comment made. Well I don’t need to say further. Because it can and might happen to anyone.
In regards to Biden being ill advised. Yes he is. All he ever needed to say was Please get vaccinated if you can. Getting out there and pointing fingers at a specific demographic never solved anything. So whoever said hey let’s make a blanket statement causing more division wasn’t the smartest staffer on the payroll. Inserting your personal opinion in a public statement is just bad form. Especially when you don’t have all the facts.
It’s ironic folks are hating on so many people not vaccinated now. When these folks were giving it their all when it wasn’t available. And now the CDC has concern as to the effectiveness of current vaccines. Case in point. I was told recently by a Physician that the Moderna shot might not be the most effective dosing. 2 shots and a booster in later.
We need more solid guidance with masking and vaccine effectiveness. And less time finger pointing and calling names,
Don't Cull Me says
“All he ever needed to say was Please get vaccinated if you can.”
What??? Biden asks American’s to get Vaccinated almost daily!
“Vaccinated and mask wearers are getting it as well.” “Because no one is immune to it.”
This kind of thinking is very misguided. NO ONE – no doctor, no public health official, no epidemiologist EVER said that the vaccine would give complete protection from GETTING the virus – only that being vaccinated would GREATLY reduce your chance of serious illness, hospitalization and death.
Too many are foolishly believing “Well, even those vaccinated get it, so why should I bother”? Maybe because the more people that are vaccinated, the LESS the virus spreads, the less chance it mutates, and the fewer people have to take up hospital space needed for others, and the less stress on our overworked health care workers.
305,000+ new COVID-19 diagnoses today—and counting.
1,775 dead today—and counting.
Impossible to process numbers like this. A tragedy like this. If GOP leadership had even *one* honorable person in it, this could’ve been avoided. But it chose to play footsie with anti-vaxxers.
St Nick says
Merry Christmas! Peace to all and joy to the world! a couple of old cranky idiots. anyone can get covid regardless of vaccination status. I am fully vaccinated but do not wish this virus on anyone. SHAME
Even if you are vaccinated you can get covid and transmit the virus to others including other vaccinated people. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-vaccinated-people-transmit-covid-19-to-others/
So your point is?
Here is a possible point about being vaccinated versus not being vaccinated:
Rates of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths by Vaccination Status per the CDC:
Unvaccinated: 451 cases per 100k
Vaccinated: 134 cases per 100k
Boosted: 48 cases per 100k
Unvaccinated: 6.1 deaths per 100k
Vaccinated: 0.5 deaths per 100k
Boosted: 0.1 deaths per 100k
Again…..the vaccine v. no vaccine is NOT about getting the disease….it’s about possibly DYING because of it.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Advent Centracare in Palm Coast should be shut down! No curbside heck-in No waiting in your car anymore- you just walk in ( nobody at the taking your temperature..) There’s no mandatory distance between seats.
You walk up to the front desk and are simply asked “Why are you hete,?”…you reply that you reserved your time slot and reason for your visit on line but that is of no concern to the 2 out of space receptionists attitudes.
” Just wait your turn..altogether and sit in our small waiting for up to 3 hours..with everyone else who just might be spreading Covid to you!
Oh and they only do the same rapid test you can do in the ‘safety’ of your own home.
This is a true story of my visit to this unhealthy waste of space clinic this past Thursday.
Oh yes I am so relieved that I tested negative that I will try to go today to a REAL testing facility for a REAL PCR test…
After all I was exposed for over 2.5 hours in a small room ..seated less than 2 feet from 2 people neither of whom I have any idea what THEY were there for!
Stay away from this place if you want to be safe is my suggestion.
Especially if you are a handicapped driver ..they have ONE single Handicap spot . Enough said. Centra Care Palm Coast Parkway should be investigated if not shut down in my opinion.
Thank you Jane. An important warning about Advent. . . not completely surprising though.
Ray W. . . thanks so much for attempting to explain the difference between the degree of illness experienced by those UN-vaccinated compared to those who care enough to be fully vaccinated, boosted, and continue to wear masks. Unfortunately, there are still those who stubbornly resist “doing the right thing”, no matter what evidence is presented. They remain mindlessly entrenched in their twisted beliefs regardless of any well reasoned presentation.
Darwinism will continue through the ages. . . thank goodness!
Ray W. says
Read my comment again.
I never characterized your comment as bad. I reacted to your decision to stop at “no one is immune to it”, when there exists another more complete response. I pointed out that you have the ability to make a better and more complete point by taking the effort to add language about encouraging the use of masking and vaccines instead of limiting your comment to a response to another commenter’s incautious and overbroad language. I then encouraged you to utilize the better and more complete argument on this most important of issues. The fact that no one is immune to the viral disease, while an accurate comment, does not prove that refusing to wear masks in public and declining vaccines when available is an option that is in any way equal to wearing masks in public and accepting the vaccines.
Unfortunately, there are too many in our country who are so stubbornly entrenched in their own beliefs that they require 100% PROOF of each and every fact, and 100% correct guidance extrapolated from those facts. Otherwise, they will continue in their passionate, close minded self righteous crusade of “I am right, unless you prove me wrong”.
What they don’t seem to comprehend is that nothing in life is “black and white”. There are NO absolutes! “Everything” is shades of Gray. . . ever changing and evolving. Certainly this pandemic is a perfect example of that fact. It is evolving and creating variants in order to keep itself alive. . . at our peril. We all need to remember that imperfect “human beings” are doing their best to react to those changes, and to balance our needs for health, safety, jobs, education. . . etc. etc.
However, NO ONE is omnipotent! We are not controlled by any puppet master. As humans in the US, we have a large amount of “free will”. Therefore, we must rely on each other to look beyond our own selfish desires, and to come together as a caring society to “do the right thing” for the “common good”.
It seems to me that the “trust” of each other, we could once count on, has been damaged. There is so much fear and hate being spread. . . mostly by lies/conspiracy theories on extreme right winged media. So many have allowed their negative emotions to overrule their intelligence and common sense. We are divided and seem to have lost much of our acceptance, compassion and kindness.
We are not only in great danger of losing our democracy, but more tragically our fundamental humanity. These are indeed troubling times.
Concerned Citizen says
Funny thing thru all of this.
I have had both shots and the booster. A little uncomfortable(And I’m absolutley a hater of needles) but I didn’t wake up with two heads and 4 eyes the next day. I wear an N95 mask when out because the N95 has been proven more effective and two of my wifes co-workers along with my wife prefer them. So three medical professionals can’t be all wrong.
I chose to try and do my part in this a long time ago. It wasn’t about me. Seeing my wife come home mentally drained and in tears after 18 hour days of taking care of Covid spoke to me. Think Covid isn’t real? Or believe it’s all hype. Go spend a day with my wife at her hospital. Having elderly parents and a business partner spoke to me. It wasn’t about me. It was about protecting them.
The funny part I mentioned? Not once did I feel oppressed. Or feel my liberty threatned. Nor did I feel the need to take up arms and start a rebellion. Because in the end it was trying to do the right thing. And if one person doing the right thing brings my wife home a little earlier and safe then damn a little inconvienience.
Now you can insult me and call me woke all day. Or call me Sheeple. Or whatever other derogatory name you can think of. It doesn’t hurt my feelings and I will sleep just fine. As for the ones who don’t want to do their part. That’s fine too. Why because this is America. It was a right to choose. It’s not for me to judge. And I will still be sympathetic when you get sick. Because in the end we can all do the right things and as my very best friend found out last year sometimes it just doesn’t help.
This pandemic has caused so much hate and division. It makes me sad really. We need to learn to be human again and be kind. One of the biggest wake up calls for me in the past 3 months was loosing my mom unexpectedly. None of us know how much time we have on this earth. Why not make it count for something positive?
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Sherry – I shall frame your post.
It should be an editorial in every newspaper across America.
Thank you so very much, Jane. Your words have brought tears. . .
*tears for the over 800,000 precious souls lost to us all
*tears for the families that will never be the same
*tears for the fact that hundreds of thousands could have been saved . . . if only we took care of one another
*tears for the living souls that carry the poison of fear and hatred towards others
*tears for the loss of the “Southern Hospitality” I grew up with
*tears for the loss of our moral compass. . . especially the “Golden Rule”
*tears for at last being heard in the wilderness
Thank You Jane!
So with these high Covid cases in FL over the holidays, where is DeathSantis. For him, I guess he’s counting the $$ coming into Fl during the holidays and heck with people’s health.