“Mild” Omicron Still a Serious Threat, Physicians Warn
|Doctors Detail Protective Measures Against COVID-19
As the massive spike of COVID-19 cases continues, Texas Medical Association (TMA) physicians urge vigilance against the threat the omicron variant poses in Texas. The degree of infectiousness and lack of best and most available treatment worries Texas physicians about what the next few weeks will bring, and they say important medical advice bears repeating.
The omicron variant’s illness has been described by some people as “less severe,” but physicians urge Texans not to let their guard down. Omicron cases can make people sick enough to miss several days of work and school, and the virus is a serious threat to people with high risk for severe illness.
“This illness may seem mild to some, but right now we don’t have enough effective treatment if too many high-risk patients get sick all at the same time,” said John Carlo, MD, a TMA COVID-19 Task Force member. At this moment, only a single monoclonal antibody treatment (sotrovimab) is effective against the omicron variant. Supplies are extremely limited.
Dr. Carlo added, “On top of this, the omicron variant is incredibly infectious, even more so than previous variants.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services reported more than 51,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Jan. 3, nearly doubling the state’s previous all-time pandemic-era high. In the first three days of this week alone, nearly 125,000 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases are reported in Texas; nearly half a million since Jan. 1. Some physician practices have had to close due to COVID-19-related staff shortages or have gone to 100% telehealth visits.
“The good news is we know how to protect ourselves,” Dr. Carlo said. “Vaccination with a booster, diligent and effective mask-wearing, and avoiding poorly ventilated indoor settings are effective.”
Physicians also worry about Texas hospital beds filling up too quickly, as area hospitals already face staffing shortages due to sick workers. “We want to make sure we have the space for every patient who needs care,” Dr. Carlo said.
To avoid catching or spreading COVID-19, TMA’s COVID-19 Task Force recommends:
“This current wave is spreading faster than ever before, and the only way to slow this down is for everyone—not just some people, but everyone—to be vigilant,” said Dr. Carlo. “We’re all in this together.”
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 56,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans. TMA’s Vaccines Defend What Matters initiative helps Texans make informed vaccination decisions for themselves and their families.