Pandemic Outlook Should Improve 'In 6 To 8 Weeks'

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Omicron has emerged as much of the northern hemisphere was already bracing for a new winter wave of the pandemic -- leaving even nations with high vaccination rates struggling to contain rising infection numbers
Omicron has emerged as much of the northern hemisphere was already bracing for a new winter wave of the pandemic -- leaving even nations with high vaccination rates struggling to contain rising infection numbers

The U.S. recently saw a record increase of daily cases of over 1 million as the Omicron variant continues to spread across the country. One medical expert believes the pandemic could improve in the U.S. in the coming months.  

Dr. Bob Wachter who chairs the Department of Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco believes the U.S. could be in "good, even great shape in six to eight weeks." 

Wachter told NPR such a rosy outcome is possible if there isn’t another variant or setback to disrupt the timeline. Otherwise, the U.S. will be in good shape by February or March, he said.

Wachter says because the Omicron variant is milder than other variants “it could turn out to be very good news” after January. Watcher says the average case of Omicron has a 60% lower chance of hospitalization than other variants despite being more transmissible. 

To mitigate the spread of the pandemic, President Joe Biden says he will double the order of Pfizer anti-viral pills from 10 million to 20 million. The first shipments were sent out on Christmas Eve, and “production is in full swing,” noting the U.S. has more pills than any other country in the world. The pills have an 89% effective rate when taken within three days of experiencing symptoms. 

Both Biden and Wachter have urged people to get vaccinated and receive a booster shot to protect themselves. According to the CDC, 72.4% of the total population has received at least one shot with 61.2% being fully vaccinated.

In a national address on Tuesday, Biden said the number of American adults who have not received the vaccine has fallen dramatically from 90 million to 35 million. "This continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated," he said.

Wachter says the Omicron variant is only milder for those who have been vaccinated. For those who are not vaccinated, the Omicron variant is about 25% less likely to hospitalize them. "That's OK, good, it's milder," he said.

But if it's 25% less likely to land you in the hospital and you have a five times greater chance of becoming infected in the next month, that math doesn't land you in a good place,” Wachter said.

Wachter noted the two factors that could throw his prediction off would be the level of immunity a case of Omicron provides against being infected by another variant, and the great unknown of a new variant forming in the coming months.

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