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Health experts hopeful for 'endemic' amid omicron surge

COVID surge continues in Ohio
The omicron variant of COVID has infected millions of Americans. However, it’s what happens in the months after those infections that will need to be looked at closely, including what omicron might mean in terms of new long-haul COVID cases.
Posted at 12:14 AM, Jan 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-08 00:14:44-05

CINCINNATI — While Ohio's COVID-19 situation sounds grim, experts said the omicron variant shows there is a possibility the virus could develop into something manageable.

Officials said the omicron variant is more contagious, meaning it is possible more people could have immunity.

"I think there is hope, of course — projecting into the future and being able to say with any kind of certainty is not possible with an evolving virus, but there are really strong indications," said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health.

Still, doctors stress it will take a lot more work, encouraging vaccines. Vanderhoff said a recent study in The Journal of the American Medical Association shows a "profound, robust immune response" to omicron in people who are already vaccinated.

Dr. Andy Thomas, chief clinical officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, agreed he would rather have herd immunity through vaccination. Thomas said the most important thing shown amid the omicron surge is the variant's severity.

"The more important thing around the omicron variant is the less severity of illness on average," Thomas said. "That's part of the probable progression of a virus like this into being into what [Vandehoff] is describing as an endemic virus, that it's almost the equivalent of a cold virus."

RELATED | Local health leaders: Tri-State omicron cases doubling 'every 2-4 days'

As Ohio continues to face the omicron variant, there is hope the surge could fall just as fast as rose like in South Africa though Ohio's population is older than South Africa's.

"We hope to see is a steady decline, and I think we've got the first inkling of that in northern Ohio right now," said Dr. Robert Wyllie with the Cleveland Clinic.

At this moment, though, Ohio is seeing a record number of COVID infections. ODH counted more COVID patients in hospitals, intensive care units and on ventilators than any other time during the pandemic. Vanderhoff said 90% of those patients are unvaccinated.

RELATED | ODH: More COVID patients in ICU, on ventilators than ever before