‘Would you and I’m going right into a constructing the place we will see smoke?’ That is how one physician sees New Yr’s Eve events


The new Omicron variant of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new SARS-CoV-2 virus, has made the prospect of ringing in the New Year with friends – even vaccinated ones – difficult. It’s only one night, after all. A bottle of champagne and some dancing. It couldn’t hurt. Or could it?

Everyone dreads the contact tracing email or post-party group text claiming someone tested positive for the virus. They say something like this, “Thank you for making New Year’s Eve so special. I’m sorry to say Mildred had symptoms of COVID-19 and tested positive the morning after.

As the second Christmas of the coronavirus pandemic approaches with an atmosphere of nervous optimism, cases continue to rise. COVID-19 has killed 791,963 Americans. On December 6, the average daily case number in the US was 120,917, a 38% increase in two weeks, according to the New York Times tracker.

A Christmas party for employees at a renewable energy company in Norway was accused of being a “super-spreader event” for the highly contagious variant of Omicron, which scientists are closely following to see how immune they are to the current vaccines on the market and how many serious illnesses it causes.

“Our working hypothesis is that at least half of the 120 participants were infected with the Omicron variant during the party. This makes this the largest Omicron outbreak outside of South Africa for the time being, ”Preben Aavitsland, senior physician at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, told Reuters.

Like the Delta variant, Omicron has spread rapidly around the world, but public health officials said the structure of this variant made it stronger at reinfecting people who have already had COVID-19 and / or had a vaccine. But it has not – so far – led to an increase in hospital admissions.

“Decision-making has only gotten more complicated.”

– Dr. Andrew Pavia, George and Esther Gross Presidential Professor at the University of Utah

Still, important questions need to be asked before accepting the year-end invitation: How many people will there be? Will there be good ventilation? Will the party be indoors or outdoors – a moot point if you live in a cold climate. How many households will there be? Are they all vaccinated?

“Decision-making has only gotten more complicated. There are no absolute answers, ”said Dr. Andrew Pavia, President Professor to George and Esther Gross at the University of Utah and Director of the Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University Hospital.

Aside from how many people, who will be there? Is this your first party of the season – or your tenth? “You could even take party’s behavior into account,” he added. “A crowded, drunk, and chaotic party like the archetype of an office party is different from a more humble gathering.”

Would he personally attend a New Year’s Eve party if invited? “I would love to attend a gathering of three to four households if the answers to the above questions were reassuring,” Pavia told MarketWatch. “Maybe a little boring, but it’s a safe way to be with friends and family.”

Other factors: “Were they all funded? Booster doses significantly reduce the risk of a breakthrough infection, making the party safer. How careful are the participants when they are not at the party? ”He said. “If you know that the others are wearing masks in crowded interiors and are conscientious, the risk is reduced.”

About this booster. While approximately 60% of the US population is vaccinated, only 24% have received a booster dose to date. Research has shown that Pfizer-BioNTech PFE, +1.34% BNTX, -9.33% and Moderna MRNA, -5.57% boosters offer more antibodies, but Johnson & Johnson JNJ, -0.25% boosters improve yours Immunity still.

“It’s a holiday”

Other medical experts advise against attending a party where the coronavirus threatens to be an uninvited guest. “Would you and I go into a building where we see smoke and hear a fire alarm? This is omicron, ”said Dr. Gregory Poland, who studies the immunogenetics of the vaccine response at Mayo Clinic.

There are no good answers to the checklist of questions, he said. “Is there a Christmas party where there is no singing, dancing and standing in a confined space? If I were the virus, I would rub my hands together for joy, ”said Poland. “It’s not a holiday. It’s a holiday! America doesn’t want to hear that, of course. “

Some people take note. Earlier this month, Rio canceled its famous New Years Eve celebrations for the second year in a row. Eduardo Paes, mayor of the Brazilian city, wrote on TWTR Twitter, -1.94% on Saturday: “We respect science.” Similarly, Poland said that Americans should respect science too.

“Even given the Delta, one in 405 Americans has died of a virus that can be prevented with a 25 cent mask, some clearance, and a free vaccine. That is unfathomable, ”Poland told MarketWatch. “The virus learns how to evade vaccine-induced immunity and virus-induced immunity.”

The Norwegian holiday party should be a warning to all party-goers, he added. “That’s how we got Delta. People become infected with more than one variant. What can prevent people from becoming infected with Omicron and another coronavirus – something as contagious as Omicron and deadly like Delta? “

COVID-19 has killed more people in the US than the estimated 675,000 deaths here from the 1918 flu. “You don’t even understand the nature of viruses,” Poland said. “We have allowed a scientific and economic problem to become a political and even a religious problem and used as a tool to divide us.”

“The virus is learning how to evade vaccine-induced immunity.”

– Dr. Gregory Poland, who studies the immunogenetics of the vaccine response at the Mayo Clinic

Luis Ostrosky, department head and infectious disease professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas at Houston, said he was speaking to his wife about the subject of parties when MarketWatch called. “I think it’s okay to have small gatherings or two or three families,” Ostrosky said.

He added a few important caveats, however: “Where everyone is vaccinated and / or boosted, where people understand that they should stay at home when they are unwell, and where there is good ventilation and lots of space, plus a few dispensers from . gives alcohol gel. Outside spaces are a plus. “

Treat each party invitation separately, advises Preeti Malani, chief health officer in the Infectious Diseases and Geriatric Medicine Departments at the University of Michigan and a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “Yes, I would consider going to a party with multiple households,” she told MarketWatch.

It is safer to say no, she said, but staying home is associated with increasing isolation. “If party goers are away for the Christmas break, I might consider this risk, which can be managed with additional testing. If younger children come – who are not yet suitable for vaccination – you can also consider tests depending on the risk. “

Don’t be afraid to ask if everyone is vaccinated. “The better you know your fellow celebrants, the easier it is to know that everyone is fully vaccinated,” Malani said. “It might be a bit of a hassle to ask for records, but sensible to formulate this as an expectation and a way to reassure everyone.”

Poland could be persuaded to join the RSVP, depending on the party’s location. “Last year the goal was relatively stable,” he said. “Now the goal is far less stable. It’s such a moving target. If I were in New York City, there is no way I would go. If I were in Podunk, Kansas, I might consider going there. “

Related: 3 ways to protect against the COVID-19 Omicron variant during the Christmas season – even if you are vaccinated

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