What you need to know about testing and more to pass omicron

That’s the madness of the omicron.

As guess, the omicron wave has reached Utah, and it’s hard. We are now seeing twice as many daily cases as we have seen at any point during the pandemic, and our system is under considerable strain as a result.

In this article, let’s discuss some of the recent findings about omicrons, what they mean moving forward, and some tips for Utahns to cope with height sickness in their community. we.

How high can Utah go?

First, let’s look at the case growth in the state. It is quite prominent.


But, of course, these are only cases reported to the Utah Department of Health. Many, many cases go unreported: People who test positive at home often go unreported, as do those who can’t access testing because they’re sick, who just think they are sick and not. Ask more, and also the asymptomatic cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that from February 2020 to September 2021, only 1 in 4 coronavirus cases were detected and included in official figures. With omicrons, however, there is reason to believe that the number of undetected cases has increased enormously – tests are scarce and the virus itself tends to be mild. It is possible that currently only 1 in 10 cases are counted.

Dr. Michelle Hofmann, deputy director of the Utah Department of Health, expects daily cases to reach about 12,000 cases per day in Utah by the end of the month — an estimate that seems reasonable but somewhat conservative to me.

If you look at what’s happening on the East Coast, these states are currently receiving an average of about 3,000 coronavirus infections per day per million residents, with spikes of up to 5,000 or 6,000 on test days. good. These states are more immune to vaccination than Utah but generally have less prior history of infection. Have those states peaked yet? It’s not obvious, but their curves are starting to flatten somewhat.

It should be noted that Utah, ahem, is ahead of the omicron curve when compared to most of their Western neighbors. Utah has averaged about 1,500 cases per million residents over the past week, while Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming and Montana have between 500 and 1,000 cases per million residents. It would be nice to have a comparable Western country further down the curve to get a better idea of ​​what to expect, but no such luck. We are leading among our peers in our state.

Protection of many variations

You can see how many people previously infected with another type of COVID-19 are now receiving omicrons. Like us discussed earlier, people are two to five times more likely to be reinfected with the omicron variant than with previous variants.

In fact, a study from Qatar estimated how protective a previous infection was. For the alpha, beta, and delta variants, prior infection will protect unvaccinated people 85% to 92% of the time. Against omicrons, however, previous infections prevent 56% of infections are symptomatic.

But how well does it work in reverse? Does omicron infection protect you from delta and other variants?

If not, that would be a real problem: We’d have essentially the same delta wave as we had before, just with an amazing omicron growth over it. And delta should be able to find resurgence as the water of the omicron recedes.

Well, we have good news from South African scientists: Omicron infection really for Your immune system gets a boost in preventing delta – especially for those who have been vaccinated.

Explanation for lower severity

And that cross-immunity is a good thing, especially since omicron is different from delta.

As you have heard by now, there is little doubt that omicron cases are, on average, less severe than previous coronavirus variants. Indeed, we know that the drop is not only due to many people having some degree of immunity to the coronavirus, but also to the inherently weaker omicron.

We really didn’t have a great explanation as to why, until recently. This Nature articles do a good job explaining our research on this issue; In nature, we first start with studying how omicrons attack the animal kingdom.

In particular, the omicron’s changes to the mutant coronavirus protein make it harder for it to enter lung cells. Omicrons infect especially well into tissue in the nose and throat, leading to obvious upper respiratory symptoms such as sore throat, sneezing, and headaches. But your lung tissue is more resilient than other variants, resulting in less damage.

Note that “more resilient” does not mean “completely resilient”. Lung cells are still capable of becoming infected with omicrons. Omicron is not the “common cold” as many eagerly say. But you are more likely to have more functioning lung cells after an omicron infection than a delta infection, which is certainly good news.

Check them out and where to find them

Everyone wants to get tested right now, and there are dozens of different manufacturers of home COVID tests to choose from. I’d love to give you a breakdown of which tests work best for omicrons, but the truth is the data isn’t very informative. There hasn’t really been a conclusive study between apples and apples on omicron sensitivity across different tests.

But there are things we do know about at-home tests. First, home tests have proven disappointingly unreliable in the early days of infection – especially before symptoms appear. In a study of 30 people being tested by both PCR and rapid daily for their work, the rapid test did not give a positive result until a day or two after the PCR test. Those people transmitted the virus between the two tests.

Many of the leading manufacturers of home COVID tests report that their tests work the same in identifying omicron cases to plain cases – yielding positive results about 85% of the time. compared to PCR, the same way they did before. However, Food and Drug Administration data suggests that at-home tests “may decrease sensitivity” to omicrons. Australian researchers found comparable results, and the FDA has not yet released its data.

We also have pretty good data More effective PCR tests more rapidly with throat and saliva samples than with omicron nasal samples – perhaps a function it is most likely to reproduce. Most home tests still require you to pick your nose. And despite the research, the FDA asked everyone still in the nose direction, because they don’t have any data on how the tests work with other samples. I’ve talked about how I wish the FDA would have adopted the clear direction of scientific research sooner, and this is one such example, although I understand it’s hard to do with the multitude of trials. experience out there.

What is my advice for getting tested? First, if the situation is critical, it’s still best to do the PCR test at the testing facility, a list of which can be found at Currently, many of those facilities are experiencing delays and turnaround times, so don’t hesitate to call to inquire about the current status of each location for the fastest possible results.

One option that eliminates waiting times for appointment scheduling is Intermountain Healthcare’s self-service check. Basically, you receive the PCR test, collect the sample yourself at home or in the car, and then send the sample at the Intermountain facility. Intermountain then emails you the results. Those results can still take more than 24 hours to get, but it can be the fastest or most convenient option for people who can’t make an appointment for work.

If the results just take too long for those tests, the quick tests may be your only option. Those things are hard to find lately.

Online product trackers like Now in stock Keep track of when online retailers have various tests in stock for shipping to your door. I recommend checking out that site and stocking up on a few of them before getting sick. Then you’ll have the tests when you need them.

What if you can’t wait for them to be shipped? I recommend visiting major retailers like Walmart, Target and CVS to see what tests stores have in stock on shelves. At the time of this writing, Walmart and Target don’t have any tests in stock and CVS doesn’t have any near me in Salt Lake City – but if I drive to Valley City locations Their West or West Jordan, they’ve got the shelves.

Of course, in-store inventory tracking is never perfect, and be nice to the staff at pharmacies, retail stores, and testing facilities if they can’t accommodate your needs. . To be sure, a lack of willingness to experiment is a huge cause of mismanagement in the face of extremely predictable demand – but not by the actual workers in those places.

It’s just ordinary people, doing the best they can in the face of unprecedented levels of illness in our community. And boy, do most of us know that feeling.

Andy Larsen is the data columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can contact him at What you need to know about testing and more to pass omicron

Yasmin Harisha

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