WASHINGTON, D.C.—New cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 are being identified across the country and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) urges everyone to take action to prevent the spread of the virus.
“This new Omicron variant is concerning but we have the tools to protect ourselves and each other,” said Gillian Schmitz, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “As we learn about the new strain, it’s important to stick with the strategies proven to guard against the transmission of the virus: wash your hands, wear a mask indoors and in crowded places, and get vaccinated if you’re eligible.”
As holiday travel picks up, the Biden Administration outlined a new plan that includes extending the mask requirements on flights and public transportation and enacting other measures meant to expand vaccine availability and bolster the nation’s defense against the virus as winter sets in.
Experts agree that the vaccine is the strongest protection available against all strains of COVID-19. The vaccine is safe and effective and recommended for everyone ages five and older. Each available vaccine meets rigorous requirements set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). ACEP urges caretakers and families to get vaccinated and take the necessary steps to protect children during the winter months. Children are less likely to experience severe illness from COVID-19 than adults, but the risks from COVID are still significant.
“COVID can be dangerous for patients of any age and the risks are compounded for those who remain unvaccinated,” said Dr. Schmitz. “It’s important to prioritize safe behaviors because we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Our best defense is the vaccine if we want to resume our normal activities and prevent serious illness and hospitalization.”
Hospitals in parts of the country are at maximum capacity, and many of those patients are unvaccinated and suffering from COVID-19. Emergency physicians reiterate the importance of trusting proven science and avoiding unsourced information, bold claims, or instant cures about COVID, vaccines or treatments that are circulating on social media or among friends. Instead, seek information supported by data and backed by leading organizations.
“If the Omicron variant spreads quickly it means more unvaccinated patients will be in the emergency department. Meanwhile, cases are surging right now and some of our hospitals are getting stretched beyond their capacity.” said Dr. Schmitz.