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Surgeon General Warns "We at the Beginning of an Omicron Wave"

"We certainly are at the beginning of an Omicron wave," said Dr. Murthy.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The coronavirus surge has started and will only get worse, as "we certainly are at the beginning of an Omicron wave," says U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. He appeared on NPR this morning to discuss how you can stay safe given the huge uptick in cases, the high transmissibility of the new variant, with some hospitals overflowing, and gave a sneak peek into what President Biden will reveal in his 2:30pm address today. Read on for 5 life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Surgeon General Warned We're at the "Beginning of an Omicron Wave"

Two healthcare workers talking at the UCI

There seems to be more COVID than ever before, or at least the potential for that to be true. "Why are so many Americans scrambling for tests, scrambling for boosters, scrambling for masks?" asked host Scott Detrow. "We certainly are at the beginning of an Omicron wave," said Dr. Murthy, "We should anticipate in the weeks ahead that we will see a sharp spike in cases as we've seen in other countries. What's happening with COVID is something that we typically don't see with this timeframe, with pandemics and really haven't seen in a hundred years, which is the rapid development of new variants, of different features. This one happens to be incredibly transmissible, far more transmissible than anything else we've seen based on the data we have. But one of the key things I want people to understand is that we are actually in a much better place than we were a year ago, even though it may not seem like that when you look just at the numbers." Keep reading to find out why, and how you can stay safe.

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Surgeon General Said These Tools are Here or Will be Coming to Help You

Healthcare worker with protective equipment performs coronavirus swab on a woman.

Why are we in better shape, even though this feels like deja vu? "The reason I say that is because we have more tools in our toolbox, including our vaccines and boosters, which significantly reduce the chances that you will end up in the hospital or losing your life. Those are the most important outcomes that we care about. And finally, with testing—we certainly are aware there needs to be more testing in our country. Now in the last few months, the President and the administration have made significant investments that quadruple the supply of tests that use the defense production act, billions of dollars to that end, but more has to be done, which is why today, when the President speaks, he'll be speaking about a series of new federal testing sites that will be setting up. So people can go and get free testing and he'll be also procuring 500 million additional rapid at home tests, that will be available for free to people and they can request them to be delivered to their home."

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Surgeon General Said Hospitals are Overwhelmed and Will be Getting More Resources

Two exhausted and desperate surgeons.

Many hospitals are already overwhelmed, and doctors may now get sick. What is the Biden administration going to do? "I share the concern about hospitals," said Dr. Murthy. "I have many colleagues and medical colleagues working in the hospital systems across our country. I talk to them all the time and, and I'm very worried about the situation with burnout among nurses, doctors, about hospital capacity. And my hospitals have really been hit hard during this, not just during Omicron, but really during the months that preceded it. What we've gotta do and what the President's gonna talk about today: Number one, we've gotta expand capacity. So we are already working to expand beds in California, Maryland, and Louisiana. The President is actually calling upon FEMA to construct even more space, physical space in hospitals, but to talk about personnel for a minute, because what I'm was worried about are healthcare workers themselves. And so we are actually gonna be mobilizing a thousand members of our military to deploy federal doctors, nurses, and medical personnel, to support hospital systems across the country. We've already had hundreds of people out in the field that have deployed thousands over the last several months to support hospitals. But we're accelerating that effort even more."

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Surgeon General Said This About How to Stay Safe Over the Holidays

Woman with face mask getting vaccinated, coronavirus, covid-19 and vaccination concept.

"It's very important that people see their loved ones," said Dr. Murthy. "Especially after two long years of this pandemic, but what's important is that we are vigilant and careful about the precautions that we've taken and those precautions are more important now than ever. So if you're. for example, gathering with people for the holidays, it's very important that you and the people you're gathering with are vaccinated and ideally boosted, as well. It's also important that you use other measures, because those vaccines are just one set of measures. We know that masking while in public indoor spaces can help reduce the risk of transmission, that using those rapid tests before you gather can help, as well in gathering in well-ventilated spaces, whether it's outdoors, if that's feasible, or indoors with the windows open and fans going, can also help to reduce your risk. So it's more important than ever that we take these precautions. This is a time where it is critical, that we're vigilant and that you prioritize the activities that are most important to you."

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Surgeon General Said This to Those of Us Who Feel "Resigned" to the Seeming Inevitability of Catching Omicron

Family after getting covid-19 vaccine.

"Many people I know all over the country are vaccinated, boosted. They've worn masks inside all, all along. They just feel like, you know what? This seems spiraling out of control. It seems like it's going to be mild. I'm just resigned to the fact I'm probably going to get COVID in the next two weeks. What do you say to that mindset?" asked Detrow. "First I would say, I understand. Look, a lot of people are feeling fatigued and just exasperated about the fact that we're still two years into this  pandemic and we're still seeing cases. … But here's what I would say. Omicron—it turns out that even though this is a rapidly spreading variant, the experience of people who are vaccinated and boosted will be different from those who are unvaccinated. You will hear of people who get cases of COVID-19, even if they're vaccinated, but those will likely be mild cases or even asymptomatic cases [compared] to the much higher risk of people developing a serious illness ending up in the hospital, losing their life if they're not vaccinated. So I certainly understand the fatigue, but I want people to know the efforts that they have made over the last year to reduce their risks, to get vaccinated, to take precautions—those have helped. Not only have they helped, but have help protect people around them. And that has certainly made a difference in our country's experience of this pandemic." So get vaccinated or boosted and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
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