As COVID-19’s omicron variant surges throughout many parts of the country and in Boulder County, researchers Kristen Bjorkman, Dan Larremore, Leslie Leinwand and Roy Parker of CU Boulder’s BioFrontiers Institute are supplying their latest take on what to expect and what to do to keep yourself and those around you as safe as possible. Their projections and advice are based on both global and U.S. data tracking.
What can you expect from the omicron variant?
Expect many cases in Boulder County and at CU Boulder. Because of the omicron variant’s high transmission rate, increased chances of breakthrough infections and a shorter interval between becoming infected and being able to transmit, infections in our community should come as no surprise—even as we maintain best practices to reduce transmission.
Severity of cases
Expect far more infections and cases, a smaller proportion of which will result in severe disease. Based on growing data, it is clear the vast majority of omicron infections will be asymptomatic or mild, particularly in vaccinated and boosted individuals. Vaccines still offer excellent protection from severe disease.
Expect a peak in omicron infections in mid-to-late January, followed by a decline, although whether the decline will be rapid or a slow decline is not yet clear. Current projections for the U.S. do not point to a prolonged omicron surge.
Expect low hospital capacity. Emergency rooms and hospitals are likely to be overwhelmed because there are far more cases, and because there are still many unvaccinated individuals. However, among those seeking hospitalization, a lower proportion require critical care, making intensive care unit capacity less likely to be overwhelmed than during previous waves.
What can you do?
- Get vaccinated and get boosted. Vaccines are available on campus.
- Improve your masking. Wear an N95, a KN94 or a double mask with a cloth on top of a surgical or double surgical mask. Cloth masking alone gives inadequate protection. Prevalence (the percent of people currently infected) is higher than at any previous point during the pandemic.
- If you have symptoms (regardless of a test), or if you test positive (regardless of symptoms), stay home.
- If you are uncertain about what to do, university policies and resources are available on the CU Boulder COVID-19 resource page.
The scientists say the campus community is in a better position now than during last year’s surge, thanks to vaccine availability and the high vaccination rate at CU Boulder.