Expert: Even if Omicron less severe, vax rates and underlying conditions don’t paint pretty picture for region | WJHL

Expert: Even if Omicron less severe, vax rates and underlying conditions don’t paint pretty picture for region | WJHL

January 4, 2022 0 By administrator

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – COVID-19’s Omicron variant may cause lower death rates than its predecessors, but the sheer volume of expected cases and could leave the region with high hospitalizations and deaths in coming weeks, the dean of East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health said Tuesday.

Dr. Randy Wykoff also said the region can expect some serious disruptions to everyday life as quarantine and isolation numbers are likely to soar among health care and EMS workers, law enforcement, teachers and other essential jobs.

“There’s a societal benefit to quarantine and isolation — “there’s also a risk to it,” Wykoff said of the potential to lower case spread.

“You can certainly imagine a scenario in any line of work, including health care, where enough people are ill or quarantined or isolated where they can’t carry out their job.”

COVID hospitalizations have soared across Virginia in the wake a case spike caused by the Omicron variant, which is just beginning to reach Southwest Virginia.

Asked about major spikes in Tennessee and Virginia’s statewide hospitalizations since Christmas, Wykoff said they’re likely linked to the new variant.

Even as Ballad Health hospitalizations have inched up during that time, Virginia’s statewide rate of new COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 people has nearly tripled since Dec. 27 and Tennessee’s has risen by more than 50%.

Omicron sent cases soaring in more urban parts of Virginia and Tennessee almost two weeks ago.

“I think what we’re seeing in increased hospitalizations is a reflection of the increased case numbers,” Wykoff said.

While some preliminary data out of Israel and Europe suggests the variant causes less severe illness and fewer deaths per capita than the Delta variant did, Wykoff called it “a little premature” to make that judgment.

“Even if Omicron is less lethal it still has some lethality,” Wykoff said. “It is still dangerous at least to some people.

“If you increase the number of cases (to) twice as many now nationally as we had at any time in the past, even if Omicron is less lethal we’re going to see hospitalizations and deaths from it — and overwhelmingly the data are that people need to get vaccinated and boosted.”

Whether the region’s case rates will reach double their previous highs remains to be seen. The seven-day rate has risen by 76% in the past week in Northeast Tennessee but is still less than two-thirds its peak reach in mid-September.

The region is a week or more behind the state in its case spike, though, and Tennessee has now reached an all-time high in seven-day rolling average, at 1099 new cases per 100,000 population. That’s five times the rate of just two weeks ago.

Northeast Tennessee’s…

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