Morristown, NJ

Morristown, NJ Omicron Update

Morristown Minute

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Morristown Minute

It seems like everyone is getting COVID. How much is Omicron playing a role in infection rates?

Of Morristown’s population of nearly 20,000 people, a little over 13% currently test positive for COVID-19, as of December 17, 2021.

In Morris County, a little over 11% of the population currently tests positive for COVID-19, and in New Jersey, once more a little over 13% of the population tests positive for COVID.

On December 1st, 2021, the first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant was identified in the United States. Since December 1st, the Omicron variant has shown signs of spreading faster than previous variants like Delta. The CDC is still unsure if Omicron spreads easier, but preliminary evidence suggests it does, and how effective vaccines and treatments are against the new variant.

Most cases in the United States are still Delta, despite Omicron seeming to spread at a greater rate.

The CDC expects that Omicron will spread more easily, as viruses tend to evolve to increase transmissibility rather than the severity of infection. The CDC also expects that anyone with the Omicron variant can spread the virus even if they are vaccinated and/or do not have symptoms.

In terms of Omicron’s severity, more data is needed to know if the variant is more likely to cause severe illness and death and how likely breakthrough infections into vaccinated populations are.

The vaccine is expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. However, breakthrough infections, infections of those fully vaccinated (two doses), are more likely to occur, as we’ve been seeing.

Currently, about 1/3rd of positive Omicron tests come from those who have received a booster (3 shots). The vaccine is your best protection, but it is not foolproof. It may prevent more severe illness, hospitalization, and death, but it does not provide complete protection. So, wear a mask, get fully vaccinated, and receive a booster.

The CDC is unsure if COVID-19 treatments are still effective against Omicron, but based on the genetic makeup of the variant, some treatments are likely still effective while others may be less so. More evidence and testing are needed to identify which treatments are most effective against the Omicron variant.

If you got a J&J vaccine, get yourself a booster two months after being fully vaccinated. If you got Moderna or Pfizer get a booster six months after getting your second shot. Masks and vaccines are still the best protection against COVID-19.

However, preliminary evidence suggests two doses of Pfizer or Moderna leave you with virtually no neutralizing antibodies that will recognize Omicron. Therefore, Omicron has been spreading with relative ease through the vaccinated population. A third dose, or booster, gives your body another chance to learn and improve its response to the COVID-19 virus and other variants. So, get a booster.

In the vaccinated and previously infected population, illness has been less severe. However, scientists still aren’t sure if these milder cases are due to Omicron being less severe or those infected having some protection – it’s likely the latter. But we should note that your T-cell response to the virus is much better preserved if you have been previously vaccinated.

In terms of testing, PCR tests still detect infection, including for the Omicron variant. However, studies are ongoing to identify if other COVID-19 tests can accurately identify the omicron variant.

So, what about the holidays?

Well, you’re going to have to have some potentially awkward conversations with family and friends. If you are gathering with groups outside your circle for the holidays, try to reduce your exposure prior to gathering. Be transparent about your level of exposure and your behavior in public and around crowds. Ultimately, you might be better off trying for large gatherings next year – or whenever we get this COVID thing under control.

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Sources:

Omicron Facts: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html

Do PCR tests work with Omicron? https://www.who.int/news/item/28-11-2021-update-on-omicron

Positive Cases Morris County: https://www.morriscountynj.gov/Residents/Health/Coronavirus#cases

NJ population, county, town: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/NJ

Morristown Positive Cases: https://www.townofmorristown.org/daily

NJ positive Cases: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/covid2019_dashboard.shtml

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