Texas researchers release winter omicron projection models

On Thursday, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium released a report modeling potential scenarios for the omicron variant, discovered on November 24 by South African scientists. As of December 15, many epidemiological characteristics of omicron remain uncertain, the researchers said, so a range of “plausible scenarios” have been projected.

Uncertain characteristics currently include inherent transmissibility, the ability to evade vaccine-acquired immunity and infection and severity, the researchers said. COVID-19 cases over a six-month period starting December 1 were projected using a compartmentalized model that tracks population-level immunity to delta and omicron variants derived from infections, de primary vaccines and booster vaccines. The researchers followed 18 different scenarios.

“In a pessimistic scenario in which omicron is as transmissible as delta and more elusive of acquired immunity from infection and vaccines than delta, omicron could lead to the biggest increase in healthcare to date, unless action is taken. be taken to slow the spread, “the researchers wrote. in the report.

In the most pessimistic scenario, a spate of cases peaking on February 3, 2022 could see cases (2.2 times higher), hospital admissions (1.8) and deaths (1.2) reaching highs. levels above the January 2021 peak.

“In an optimistic scenario in which omicron is 50% more transmissible than delta, but much less immune evasive (with only a 10% reduction in protection against infection and no reduction in protection against severe consequences)”, have writes the researchers, “We are projecting a significantly smoother increase in omicron which peaks on Jan. 18, 2022 with cases (0.92 times the peak), hospital admissions (0.57) and deaths (0, 46) lower than the peak in January 2021. “

Researchers said that if 80% of those previously vaccinated were boosted by March 1, 2022, rather than the baseline of 57%, projections see reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths reduced by 5%, 12% and 13%, respectively. In the most pessimistic projection, this translates to avoiding 1.3 million reported COVID-19 cases, 168,000 hospitalizations and 39,000 deaths between December 1 and May 1, 2022.

The researchers noted that they were publishing these results ahead of the peer review to “give policymakers and the public a hunch about the immediate threat of the omicron variant.” They also said they will update the estimates as more information regarding the spread, vaccine evasiveness and severity of omicron becomes available.

Earlier this week, the University of Texas at Austin Health Services informed Austin Public Health of preliminary lab results indicating the presence of the COVID-19 omicron variant in three people in Austin-Travis County. If these results are confirmed, the APH said, these will be the first cases of omicron identified in the region. Public health officials continue to warn the community in the hopes that people will get tested before they gather or travel for the holidays.

“Our community has learned firsthand the dangers that the new variants can pose. The delta variant arrived this summer and is still in our community. We now have the omicron variant,” said Dr Desmar Walkes of Austin- Travis County Health Authority. “Our mission and our approach remain the same. Get vaccinated, get reminders, stay home if you are sick, wear your masks to protect yourself, your loved ones and our hospital systems against this virus.”

As of December 16, 3,134 Texas residents were hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 cases, according to Texas Health and Human Services. More than 3.8 million people in Texas have received a booster dose according to THHS data, or about 13% of the state’s population and 24% of the state’s fully vaccinated population.

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