Omicron is everywhere. So what will the cities vax/test mandate accomplish? – Twin towns
The realistic goal of the vaccine or test requirements announced Wednesday by St. Paul and Minneapolis is not to crush the coronavirus.
Or quickly end the pressure on hospitals.
Or to make restaurants, bars, sports arenas and other public places “safe” from the virus.
But it’s to make them sureuh. And to reduce pressure on hospitals.
And, say public health officials and those who support the rules, to increase vaccination levels – because that will also achieve those goals.
Understanding the nuanced reasoning behind the requirements – which were immediately controversial – is important at a time when the omicron variant is spreading rapidly, even among vaccinees, and many public health officials have begun to suggest that it is inevitable that a record number of people are infected.
“It won’t eliminate anything, but it will minimize it,” Dr. Randy Rice, president of the Minnesota Medical Association, said Thursday. The group, which represents 11,000 physicians, residents and medical students, released a statement Thursday that said its members “applaud leaders in Minneapolis and St. Paul for taking the decisive but temporary step” to institute the requirements.
WHAT RULES CANNOT DO
The new rules won’t stop the omicron from spreading, officials acknowledge, for several reasons.
For starters, being vaccinated — aside from being fortified or previously immune to COVID — doesn’t prevent someone from getting the highly contagious omicron variant, and strict measures don’t seem to reverse the strong ones. increases in cases that were predicted shortly after omicron. Hawaii, for example, has the strictest protocols in the country, with proof of vaccination required for many activities, especially those enjoyed by off-island tourists. Still, cases continued to climb there with the omicron surge.
Evidence also continues to accumulate that the omicron variant generally causes less severe disease, regardless of previous immunity, because it does not attack the lungs as violently as previous variants. But to be clear, omicron is still a killer for some.
Also, under the new rules, the planned route for the unvaccinated to enjoy a night out – a negative test within three days – the cut. That’s because omicron’s incubation period — the time it takes to become infected enough to test positive in a lab test — can be as short as three days, the Centers for Disease said. Control and Prevention. Some researchers have suggested it could be faster, although scientists still don’t know when a person becomes contagious. Some European countries have a 48-hour testing window, and some US cities, such as Boston, do not allow a negative test at all as an alternative to vaccination for indoor activities.
Right now in Minnesota, amid a slew of cases and high demand for testing, it may not be possible to get a result within 72 hours. Some labs are reporting turnaround times in excess of three days for labs to process PCR tests — the most sensitive test. And rapid home tests won’t be accepted as proof of a negative test under either city’s rules.
WHAT RULES CAN DO
Yet despite the shortcomings, those who support the new rules say they will have value, ultimately saving lives, even indirectly.
One of the main aims is to reduce pressure on local hospitals, which said they were “literally full” and warned that non-COVID patients risk not getting the care they need as a result. Even though omicron appears to be less severe on an individual basis, the extremely high number of people infected has led to unprecedented levels of hospitalizations in other states where the omicron outbreak began before Minnesota, and the Minnesota generally follows this trend.
Reducing the spread – flattening the curve, if you remember the phrase from the early days of the pandemic – is the fundamental way to alleviate this pressure. “Anything we can do to level that will help,” Rice said.
Who is most likely to be hospitalized and need precious intensive care beds? The unvaccinated.
A key goal of the new mandates: to keep the unvaccinated out of circulation as much as possible, at least for now. While St. Paul and Minneapolis are the first cities in Minnesota to enact a vaccine or testing mandate, Rice’s group on Thursday encouraged other communities to follow suit.
The last major objective of these policies: To increase vaccination levels.
Proponents say it doesn’t matter that vaccines don’t make you bulletproof against COVID; they make the difference. On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told a congressional panel that being unvaccinated makes you 10 times more likely to be infected, 17 times more likely to be hospitalized and 20 times more likely to die.
In Ramsey County, 78.4% of vaccine-eligible people — those ages 5 and older — have received at least one vaccine, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Experts say it must be higher, although today’s vaccinations won’t change anything for weeks.
Minneapolis officials point out that studies suggesting vaccine requirements, while controversial and authoritative for some, are working. City health officials pointed to a study published in The Lancet showing that vaccination rates in Denmark, Israel, Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland are increasing before vaccination mandates come into effect. vigor. Another study cited by officials appeared in the journal Nature, concluding “that fears of a backlash against vaccine mandates may be unfounded and that the requirements will promote the adoption of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States” .
“Look, none of this is going to do everything we need,” Rice said. “How fast will it work? I don’t know. … But something is better than nothing.