UCSF doctor sees omicron peak in 7 to 10 days, says we should prepare to live with COVID

But she doesn't expect deaths and hospitalizations to spike as they have in the past
SAN FRANCISCO -- The director of COVID Response at UCSF's emergency department expects the number of cases brought on by the omicron variant to peak in the next seven to 10 days, but she doesn't expect deaths and hospitalizations to spike as they have in the past.

Dr. Jeanne Noble says there is a steady volume of patients testing positive for COVID but few hospitalizations. We've seen "skyrocketing case numbers, the number of people testing positive, but low levels of significant disease from COVID," said Dr. Noble. "In fact, our death rate from COVID has actually been declining." There's a reason for that, says Noble, "the virus replicates better in the upper airways, causing more of a common cold, less replication in the lower airways causing less of pneumonia and serious disease."

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There are currently 44 patients with COVID at UCSF hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland. Of those patients, 31 were admitted for other ailments but tested positive, while 13 were admitted because of COVID. Dr. Noble says about half of those admitted due to COVID were unvaccinated. The other half are immunocompromised.

Once the omicron variant peaks in the United States, Dr. Noble says we need to re-think how we're handling the virus, "we are going to have to pivot to living with COVID." She also believes we should reassess our testing policies, "A lot of us are still living in this sort of 2020 panic of a positive COVID test means significant illness, it really doesn't mean that anymore," said Dr. Noble. "At some point, we're going to have to dial back our asymptomatic testing."

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Dr. Noble's advice for us all: "What we really need to do is prepare for that pivot. Is to really embrace how effective our vaccines have been, how they have really saved us from the incredibly high death rates that we saw in 2020 and really focus on getting back to pre-pandemic life."

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