Photo Credit: Northwestern Medicine
The omicron variant is on the rise. According to a recent Reuters report, more than 132,646 COVID-19 patients were in U.S. hospitals on Monday, January 10, 2022. That’s higher than the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in January 2021.
During a recent interview with the Washington Post, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described the variant as “extraordinary” in how quickly and easily it spreads compared to the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the delta variant. “It is going to be a tough few weeks, months, as we get deeper into the winter,” Fauci said.
Fauci, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health care authorities nationwide agree that the COVID-19 vaccine remains the best public health measure to protect people from the virus and its emerging variants. The vaccine — which has been described by some as a turning point in the pandemic — is highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death.
Northwestern Medicine, based in Chicago, is asking people to “believe in the vaccine.” Health care workers throughout the health system are sharing their reasons for getting vaccinated and answering questions from their communities about safety, efficacy and access. Northwestern Medicine’s COVID-19 vaccine resource hub offers the latest science behind the vaccines, information about potential side effects, and the “do’s and don’ts” of getting vaccinated.
The “do’s” listed on the health system’s webpage include staying informed as the virus changes and mutates; following trusted, credible resources; and in the words of Michael G. Ison, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Medicine, “When you get called, get your vaccine as soon as you can.”
The “don’ts” include don’t stop wearing your mask; don’t assume you’re safe around other people; and don’t stop practicing social distancing.
Michael Bauer, medical director at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, is doing his part to help people believe in the vaccine. As COVID-19 cases increase among children, Bauer is educating parents on what makes omicron different, how to detect the variant in kids and the benefits of getting vaccinated.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that from January 3–10, 2022, nearly 222,000 Illinoisans were diagnosed with COVID-19 and that nearly 59,000 of people who tested positive were 19 years and younger — a jump of nearly 13% over the previous week. Young people were the highest percentage of positive cases across all age groups in Illinois.
"There's no question — with omicron, it's different," Bauer said in an interview with the Daily Herald. Bauer explained that omicron tends to present "more upper respiratory symptoms — not nearly the same degree of lower respiratory (symptoms) hitting your lungs, which is a good thing.” He goes on to say that's why “it does affect children who have smaller airways a bit more," similar to croup.
Bauer is not seeing many patients with omicron who have lost the ability to smell and taste.