Public health official shares an update on the COVID variant

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The new Omicron variant, BA.2, is causing problems in Europe and China, enough so that there are concerns of an eventual surge in the U.S. We got an update on the variant and all things COVID, from former State Health Director Will Humble, who now leads the Arizona Public Health Association.

Is the pandemic over?

“We’re in the transition..I think we’re in the endemic phase quite honestly…there are still declarations of public health emergency out there at the federal and state level. But for all practical purposes, we’ve transitioned from the pandemic phase to the endemic phase,” Humble said.

He added that this is the part where the virus will continue to “bubble” along and we will, “never get to the herd immunity that we talked about probably last year at this time or before that just because there are so many re-infections with this virus.”

Although Humble said that this virus will continue to bubble along, there won’t be as much strain on the hospital system.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to see…a flood of persons into emergency departments or ICU’s…but it’s never going to just ‘flat’ go away.”

In regards to the current surge in Hong Kong, “they had a really tight containment strategy from the very beginning with travel restrictions, with contact tracing and they had a ‘zero’ COVID strategy but they didn’t have an aggressive vaccination strategy,” Humble said.

He added that older people living in Hong Kong became comfortable without getting vaccinated and got away with it up until the Omicron variant. According to Humble, this is causing a flood within the hospital system and causing high mortality.

But here, vaccination was a core strategy and, “we never had containment as you know in Arizona…and that means a lot of people got infected over the first two years and have immunity that way,” Humble said.

This new variant, “is a little bit more transmissible but there’s no evidence that it’s anymore lethal or causes more serious symptoms.”

In terms of getting a fourth dose of the vaccine, Humble urges people to listen to the FDA and the CDC and local health officials to see if it is the best option.

He shared that the second booster shot may be helpful in congregate settings but said to speak with your primary care doctor when looking into getting a fourth dose of the vaccine.

Will Humble, Executive Director, Arizona Public Health Association

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