Frieden ‘cautiously optimistic’ as omicron ‘tsunami’ recedes

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Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the remainder of the pandemic “as the Omicron tsunami recedes.”

Frieden, in an op-ed published Tuesday by CNN, said the country is “better defended against Covid than ever,” pointing to drugs that are highly effective in preventing severe illness, increased testing, widespread vaccination and protection from prior infection.

“Although it’s possible that deadly new coronavirus variants could emerge, I’m more optimistic today than at any point since the Covid-19 pandemic began,” Frieden wrote.

“Now, we can have the upper hand over Covid because our defenses are multilayered and strong, starting with immunity,” he later added.

Frieden also said the U.S. has “sharpened” its genomic surveillance capabilities, which will help the country “stay ahead of the virus by continuing to be on the lookout.”

The former CDC director said that while those factors are “reasons for cautious optimism,” the possibility of “wild cards” still exists.

“Protection from Omicron infection may not be strong or long-lasting; less severe infections often result in less lasting immunity. And although vaccine protection has held up well against severe disease, we may need additional doses to stay up to date,” Frieden wrote.

He also said health experts remain unsure of how often illness from the omicron variant leads to long COVID-19 and of the best way to treat the condition.

The largest “wild card” according to Frieden, however, is the coronavirus’s ability to mutate. He said it is “highly unlikely” that the omicron strain will be the final variant in the pandemic.

But still, the former CDC director said the U.S. is “better prepared than ever.”

“Even if a worse variant emerges, we’re better prepared than ever: more immunity, more vaccines, more treatments, better masks and more of them, better tests, better understanding of Covid, more sequencing,” Frieden.

“Covid doesn’t have to keep dominating our lives, and with our improved defenses, we may soon be able to safely resume many activities,” he added.

He emphasized that while COVID-19 is “not over yet,” the U.S. can use lessons it has learned over the nearly two years of the pandemic “to create a safer world where, instead of adding to fear of contagion, the connections among us strengthen our health, our economy and our common community.”

The U.S. has reported more than 74.2 million COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic and nearly 882,000 deaths, according to the CDC’s COVID-19 data tracker.

Tags CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 COVID-19 variants Omicron variant Tom Frieden

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