Local medical experts share expectations, concerns about omicron variant

Coronavirus

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Scientists are now getting a better picture of the COVID-19 omicron variant, including here locally in Connecticut.

The state has only 11 confirmed cases so far, but health experts say you can expect that to change in the very near future.

Dr. F. Perry Wilson, a clinical researcher at the Yale School of Medicine, said there’s no doubt that omicron will overtake the Delta variant in Connecticut.

“Omicron is here. It’s in Connecticut. It’s spreading. It’s spreading rapidly and it will become the dominant variant,” Wilson said. “At the rate it’s spreading, it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.”

He anticipates that time will come around mid to late January but others have an earlier timeline.

One of the researchers who sequences COVID tests in Yale’s lab, Nathan Grubaugh, shared his prediction on Twitter.

He said sequencing from Yale New Haven Health, from mostly New Haven and Fairfield counties, shows the variant doubling in cases every four days. Based on this data, he expects omicron to be dominant within one to two weeks.

As science continues to evolve, opinions will differ, but it is clear omicron is moving fast. Chief Medical Officer of Yale New Haven Hospital Dr. Thomas Balcezak talked about this in a virtual update Wednesday morning.

“It’s worrisome,” Balcezak said. “I think there’s a good reason to be worried. It does appear quite infectious.”

So far there is a narrative that the variant causes less severe infection. Wilson said that logic is problematic.

“If you have 10 times as many cases and half the severity, well you have five times as many deaths,” Wilson said.

Because of this and early data showing that omicron can evade the vaccine, experts say don’t wait on getting protected, either with your first dose or booster.

“Please don’t confuse reduced with eliminated,” Wilson said. “The vaccine still provides substantial protection, particularly against that severe disease, getting hospitalized, dying from COVID.”

People might be wondering what this means for Christmas next week. Wilson said if you’re gathering with others, make sure you’re vaccinated and do a rapid test as a precaution.

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