When the new version of Omicron was revealed last week, there were concerns that it would force governments to consider new restrictions just after the holidays.
But so far, officials have resisted the new rules, saying travel plans can be met and the policies already in place on masks and vaccine testing are the best way to deal with the new strain of coronavirus.
“It has been an extremely long and difficult time, and people have a right to feel tired,” said Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County director of health. “I think the best way to put all this in perspective is that we now have much more powerful tools at our fingertips than we did last year.”
Why such a laissez-faire approach?
Officials are quick to point out that the state of the pandemic has changed a lot this year, given the plentiful supply and availability of vaccines that are expected to provide at least some degree of protection against Omicron, especially against severe illness and death.
Also on the horizon is the likely authorization of pills that could reduce the risk of serious illness.
The main strategy continues to be to vaccinate more unvaccinated people, including young children, and to encourage eligible vaccinated adults to get boosted.
“Rocket boosters are absolutely essential, especially for people who have recently been vaccinated,” Ferrer said.
Bay area health officials supported these beliefs.
“There are many questions about how contagious it is, how easily it spreads. … But here’s the important thing to know: we now have so many tools that were not available in other parts of the pandemic. And we know how to use them, ”Dr. Sarah Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer and Director of Public Health told KTVU-TV.
“I really think we are in a much better place to face this new unknown than ever before during the pandemic,” Cody said.
Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s director of public health, told KGO-TV that he is “cautiously hoping we are in a good place when the option comes along.”
Vaccinations are a key weapon
Health officials have long emphasized the importance of a multi-layered approach to tackling the coronavirus. While wearing masks in public, avoiding crowded spaces, and especially getting vaccinated can provide some degree of protection, these tools work best when used together.
“We need people to be intelligent and careful, and we’re going to put a lot of emphasis on science,” Ferrer said. “Obviously, if new information emerges that requires us to rethink our safety messages, we will return to both the board of directors and the public.”
The demand for revaccinations in Marin County is so high that some residents are reporting difficulties making appointments at local pharmacies this week. KGO-TV reported that one pharmacy in Marin County ran out of vaccines on Friday and canceled appointments until Sunday.
“This is a logistics issue. Demand has grown so rapidly that not all of our pharmacies have been able to meet this demand, only in terms of supplying goods through regional distribution networks, ”said KGO-TV Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Health Officer. The channel quoted Walgreens and CVS as saying they are working on replenishing stores with new images.
Officials hope that demand for the vaccine – and booster vaccines – will pick up statewide this week amid the new Omicron threat.
Almost 64% of Californians are fully vaccinated, according to figures obtained from The Times, but that number is too low to contain the expected fifth surge in COVID-19 this winter. There is a surge in demand for vaccinations among children aged 5 to 11, and interest in revaccination is growing, but authorities are concerned about low vaccination rates among young people.
Early demand for the COVID-19 vaccine for young children in California was strikingly uneven, with some areas applying vaccinations and others much more slowly, as analysis of the Times data showed last week.
Meanwhile, the percentage of vaccinated Los Angeles County residents getting a booster shot for COVID-19 is significantly lower in poorer neighborhoods than in other neighborhoods.