COVID-19 is surging at a frightening rate in Alexandria right now, just in time for Christmas. It feels like we are all Charlie Brown, with a lump of coal in our stockings and no Christmas cards in the mailbox.
We’ve gone from 17 actual cases reported on Nov. 30 to 257 reported on Wednesday. At the current rate, even without a continued upward surge, there would be close to 2,000 new cases in Alexandria in the next seven days. See page 1 of this week’s Times, “Analysis: COVID-19 cases reach new highs,” for the full story.
It’s safe to say that 99.99% of us are beyond weary of this virus and the disruptions it’s causing to our lives, our livelihoods and our outlook on life. Churches in Alexandria are faced with the gut-wrenching decision to either cancel Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services yet again or potentially put their congregations and staff at risk by holding them despite this Omicron-fueled spike.
Amid the increasingly bad news, there are slivers of hope, and now is the time to act on what could be a literal lifeline. The bad news with the Omicron variant is that vaccinated people are getting breakthrough cases at a much higher rate than with earlier versions of the virus.
The good news is that prior immunity conferred by either a vaccine or a prior infection seems to be resulting in less severe cases of COVID-19 from the Omicron variant. This has proven true in South Africa, where this variant was first detected.
It is believed that in South Africa a much higher percentage of the population than the United States has either already had a case of COVID-19 or has been vaccinated, meaning that current cases there are likely secondary cases. South Africans who have contracted COVID-19 during the Omicron-fueled surge are getting severely sick at much lower rates than earlier in the pandemic, according to a National Public Radio report.
So, if you’re fully vaccinated or have had COVID-19, you’re much less likely to have a severe case of COVID-19 from the Omicron variant.
The NPR report goes on to state that data indicates about 20% of Americans have no immunity to COVID-19 as they are not vaccinated and have not had a prior case. Given the extreme contagiousness of the Omicron variant, these people are at great risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19.
This has been borne out in the United Kingdom, where vaccination and infection rates more closely mirror the U.S. In the UK, a Reuters report this week said the Omicron variant is causing as many severe cases of COVID-19 as earlier variants.
To those Alexandrians who have not had COVID-19 and have also not received the vaccine: It’s not too late to reconsider. Even if you’ve calculated that until now you didn’t need the vaccine, it’s reached a critical point and now you really do need it.
Please trust your doctor, your pastor or others in your community who have urged you to get the vaccine and have set an example by getting it themselves. It really could save your life.
Another piece of good news is that Moderna has reported that its booster is highly effective at protecting against severe cases of COVID-19 from the Omicron variant. If you’ve had both doses of one of the mRNA vaccines – Moderna or Pfizer – or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson, go ahead and get the booster if you’re eligible.
At the beginning of 2021, the Times launched a public service campaign of ads and editorials encouraging residents to “Give it a shot.” To that, in 2022, we add, “Give it a boost.” Because any life that’s needlessly lost is one too many.