First published in the Jan. 1 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
As we head into a new year, we are experiencing the most severe COVID-19 surge since last winter.
This is in spite of the fact that vaccines to prevent and limit the effects of the coronavirus are readily available. Now, our communities face the new Omicron variant that is significantly more contagious than the COVID strains we have encountered earlier. Omicron spreads anywhere from two to four times faster than Delta did, and the daily rate of rise in our community has the potential to cause significant illness and shortages in the workforce.
We’re seeing this at Adventist Health Glendale, as are the other hospitals in the area. This wave is unlike previous waves. Unvaccinated people have been found to be 23 times more likely to become infected with Omicron, and 25 times more likely to require hospitalization than those who are fully vaccinated. While fewer patients are requiring intensive care and assisted oxygen than we saw earlier this year, young children, who are not yet able to be vaccinated, are requiring hospitalization at alarming rates all over the country.
Overall, we are feeling optimistic about the decrease in the virulence of Omicron, but there is still so much more that we can do. If you have not yet been vaccinated, this is the time to do it. If it’s been six months or more since your second vaccine, you need to get a booster shot. We’ve worked hard, along with the city and other healthcare providers, to provide vaccinations to anyone who wants them. The fact is more people need to want them.
Without a booster, the chance of becoming infected with Omicron is 70%. With the booster, your chance of contracting Omicron drops to 25%. If you have been boosted, you are much less likely to spread the virus to your loved ones if you do test positive. In addition, if you have been exposed, those who have received a booster do not need to quarantine if they wear a mask and remain asymptomatic.
Rest assured that Adventist Health is focused on ensuring we have the ample supplies and adequate staff to care for those in need. Please do your part to help our communities through this challenging time by getting your vaccination, getting your booster, wearing your mask (surgical or N95 preferred), maintaining social distance in public spaces and getting tested if you feel ill.
We all look to a brighter tomorrow; with our collective efforts, we can get through this wave, and the pandemic, safely. If we all put in a great effort, we really do believe this could be the last serious wave of this pandemic.
Let’s keep calm, but be vigilant and smart.
Alice Issai is president of Adventist Health Glendale.