As January approaches, more workers will be returning to offices, not all at once and maybe not five days a week, but returns to work will begin in earnest for a larger proportion of the U.S. workforce in 2022, the Omicron variant of Covid does the high winter flu season pose new risks?
According to Dr. Vin Gupta, an intensive care pulmonologist and affiliate of the University of Washington School of Medicine, there are likely more reasons to keep current home-based employees out of the office until at least April or May than to bring them back soon.
Speak to members of the last week Executive Council of the CNBC Workforce During a virtual town hall, Gupta said that for companies whose employees currently mostly work from home, “I see no reason, no scientific justification, and certainly no psychological reason to move their workforce into a workplace environment before the 1st at the earliest.”
“Before April 1st doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” he added.
A sign instructs employees to return to work for COVID-19 testing at the World Bank in Washington, October 19, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Part of his view is based on his experience as a pulmonologist. The Delta variant is still causing many deaths in the US, mainly among the unvaccinated, and the Omicron variant is expected to become a major contributor in 2022. And those covid trends are happening during the uncertainty about the flu season and all the other respiratory illnesses, rather than viruses that exist during winter and take advantage of the cold, dry air. While the US suffered from the delta rise in midsummer, this is no reason to overlook the seasonal effect, but rather to consider that winter could get “absolutely worse”.
Based on data from South Africa and other places where early testing and sequencing is done, it is clear that there is a straight line regarding the cases detected over time, and this is different from Delta, which is a sharp climb but a little slower. “I think it is a matter of time before Omicron becomes dominant as it is the competing delta in places we believe originally originated,” said Gupta, adding that they are in the will become the dominant strain in the next few weeks and months.
the Britain confirmed its first death from the Omicron variant On Monday.
That means the US healthcare system is under stress and headlines are “not going to be nice” for the next few months. “Even if it is less fatal, more people are still getting it and the unvaccinated are frankly defenseless, they will end up in the hospital more often,” he said.
Many companies are delaying plans to return to their offices, but not just because of omicron. Apple has postponed its return until February, even before the news from omicron got known. Since the release of the new variant, Google has postponed a scheduled return date to January 10th.
“If people here are looking for a clear deadline, I would start planning my return to the office in the second quarter,” Gupta told CNBC WEC members.
The pulmonologist said the psychological reasons for the delay in returning to office were as strong, if not stronger, than virology’s.
“Psychologically, we’re not going to be in a place where we feel particularly safe, especially given the headlines that continue to dominate on omicron. And I think that won’t wear off until April 1,” Gupta said. “Hopefully April 1st will be a pivotal point for me psychologically, we have the cold and flu season behind us, we have the worst of Delta plus Omikron behind us,” he added.
Part of his mindset on April 1st is that it is a date by which the uptake of Covid booster vaccinations, as well as the uptake of the first vaccinations, will be significantly stronger in the wider population. And there could be other cities that are following New York City’s lead and making the vaccine mandatory.
“I think we will make more progress,” said Gupta.
There is currently a way to proceed safely, Gupta said in a Friday interview with CNBC’s “Closing Bell” when companies create a “vaccine bubble” – which requires all officers to deliver three Covid vaccine shots, including a booster receive.
“A lot of companies that have developed vaccine bladders have done well and that’s three shots,” Gupta said.
ONE new study from Oxford University showed that people with two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Astra Zeneca can still be infected with omicron. The leading U.S. expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a television interview on ABC on Sunday that three doses including the booster are “optimal care”, but the US government is not going to change its definition of “fully vaccinated”.
With Covid deaths still at 10,000 a week in the US and as of Friday Omicron has been discovered in 25 US states“Probably the best scenario is that deaths there stagnate for at least a few months, and that’s one of the reasons why non-blistering companies should tell their employees they don’t have to return until April or May,” Gupta said .
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