A report from the BBC says the Omicron COVID variant is much milder, and very early results indicate that certainly seems to be true so far in Kansas. The first Omicron case in Kansas occurred in mid-December, but hospitalizations and deaths from other COVID variants are also much milder. Last year, there were 914 deaths attributed to COVID in November but only 244 this year. The drop in December deaths so far is even more precipitous, with 1,369 last year and only 147 through December 23 this year.
There is a time lag in reporting deaths to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Omicron variant only recently arrived in Kansas, but this is still very good news.
Hospitalizations were substantially lower in November than last November and are running about 33% lower so far in December.
More than a month after the Omicron variant was identified in South Africa, the BBC says a study points to the Omicron wave being milder.
“It showed people were 70-80% less likely to need hospital treatment, depending on whether Omicron is compared to previous waves, or other variants currently circulating. However, it suggested there was no difference in outcomes for the few patients that ended up in hospital with Omicron.
Prof Cheryl Cohen of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, in South Africa, says, “Compellingly, together our data really suggest a positive story of a reduced severity of Omicron compared to other variants.”
Media, Kansas officials push Omicron case growth scare tactic
Predictably, health officials and media in Kansas tell a different story.
A December 23 headline in the Kansas City Star screamed, “With 1,600 COVID cases, KC metro sees one of the biggest daily jumps since pandemic began.” Buried near the end of the story, the Star notes that deaths are less than half of last year’s average.
The Johnson County Health Department noted the arrival of Omicron with warnings for everyone over the age of 5 to get vaccinated and recommended boosters for adults 18 and older.
“People should use a layered approach – get vaccinated, wear a mask, stay away from crowds, wash hands frequently and stay home if sick.”
Not a word about the Omicron variant being much milder even though it is much more contagious.
There was no mention in either story of the encouraging news coming out of South Africa and Europe. Just case hype and fear.
The Sentinel will continue monitoring hospitalizations and deaths and provide regular updates.