New polling shows people do not plan on skipping holiday parties this year regardless of vaccination status despite growing concern that the omicron variant will cause a fifth COVID-19 wave.
The majority of vaccinated people, 73%, said they would keep their plans to attend an in-person holiday event with friends and family, while federal officials advise people to take extra precautions amid surging COVID-19 cases due to the delta and omicron variants. An even higher proportion of the unvaccinated, 76%, said the same, according to a new Stat/Harris poll.
“At least 39 states and over 75 countries have reported confirmed cases of the omicron variant, and although delta continues to circulate widely in the United States, omicron is increasing rapidly. And we expect it to become the dominant strain in the United States as it has in other countries in the coming weeks,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said.
The poll also reported that a similarly high rate of the vaccinated population, 71%, would comfortably dine indoors at a restaurant. Seventy-two percent of unvaccinated people said the same. Meanwhile, 83% of vaccinated people said they would mask up in public indoor places, compared with 63% of unvaccinated people.
THE ORGANIZATIONS WALKING BACK VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS TO AVOID LOSING WORKERS
New case rates have hit levels not recorded since the end of the winter surge early this year. The seven-day average number of new cases has hit roughly 124,000 while hospitalizations have risen steadily since mid-November to reach a weekly average of roughly 68,000 patients, according to New York Times tracking.
“We really do want people to be able to gather and gather safely. We have the tools now to do it, and what we're really saying is please rely on those tools,” Walensky said. “Use the next week to make sure you're practicing those safe prevention mitigation strategies so that when you come together for the holidays, that people have not been exposed to the virus because in fact they've been vaccinated, boosted, and masked.”
The White House COVID-19 response team assured the public on Friday that nobody should panic over omicron and pointed to evidence, albeit limited evidence, that the strain is less severe than delta, provided the person is vaccinated and boosted. For instance, a report out Thursday from Imperial College London said, “We find no evidence (for both risk of hospitalisation attendance and symptom status) of Omicron having different severity from Delta, though data on hospitalisations are still very limited.”
“With regard to the seriousness of infection, really it's still up in the air right now because there are a lot of confounding issues as to whether or not it is less severe,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser. “Certainly, looking at what we see, it does not look like it is more severe, but we have to withhold judgment about the severity being less.”
SOUTH AFRICAN HOSPITAL DATA SUGGEST OMICRON NOT MORE LETHAL
To date, over 65% of the population age 5 and older have been fully vaccinated, but roughly 70% of adults have not received a booster dose, which drastically reduces a person’s risk of becoming severely ill.