While one health director felt compelled to warn others that hosting “omicron parties” to catch coronavirus is a bad idea, other medical experts have expressed similar warnings as people question if they can just get COVID-19 over with already.
“I’m getting people sending me messages to Facebook and other places saying that people are having omicron parties to get exposed,” Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart told KTUL. “Well, don’t do that. Absolutely do not do that.”
But it’s not just in the Midwest where the idea of intentionally catching the omicron variant has began to spread.
Doctors in San Diego are also addressing the issue, KFMB reported.
“When people say, ‘Oh let me just get COVID and get it over with.’ Well, you’re not really getting over anything,” Dr. Jyotu Sandhu with Sharp Rees-Stealy Downtown told KFMB. “You’re never fully protected from re-infection.”
Still, the idea has “caught on like wildfire,” Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Havey Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine told CNN.
“And it’s widespread, coming from all types of people, the vaccinated and boosted and the anti-vaxxers,” he continued. “You’d be crazy to try to get infected with this. It’s like playing with dynamite.”
Why shouldn’t you catch omicron on purpose?
While omicron is reported to be a milder, yet more contagious variant, experts warn that trying to purposefully catch COVID-19 is not a way to end this pandemic. It’s also not considered a way to ensure you don’t get a more deadly variant.
“People are talking about omicron like it’s a bad cold,” Murphy told CNN. “It is not a bad cold. It’s a life-threatening disease.”
And as omicron continues to surge, hospitalizations have reached an all-time high amid the pandemic, according to NPR.
“But the problem is that (omicron is) so transmissible, the sheer number of cases is going to be so high,” Dr. Sameer Kadri, an infectious disease and critical care physician at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, told NPR.
Pediatric infectious disease expert Dr. Mark Sawyer told KFMB that omicron is “only mild until it’s not.”
“A small number of people are still getting very sick or even dying from omicron and that includes children,” he told the TV station. “Why take that chance when now we have a vaccine that can take away any risk of severe outcomes?”
Vaccines continue to be considered the best way to protect against COVID-19 while slowing transmission and reducing the chances for new variants to emerge, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the omicron variant,” the CDC says. “However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.”
The CDC say more data is still needed to know if omicron infections, along with reinfections and infections in those fully vaccinated, will cause more severe illness and death than other variant infections.
More than 208 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and over 247 million people have received one dose as of Wednesday, Jan. 12, according to the CDC. More than 77 million people have received a booster dose.
Everyone ages 5 and up are eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Boosters are recommended for everyone 12 years and older who received a Pfizer-BioNTech series; after five months for adults 18 and up who received the Moderna series; and after two months for adults who received the one-dose Janssen vaccine.
“Even if it is true that everyone is eventually going to get, particularly, the omicron variant, it is not a good idea to intentionally try to get it sooner or to completely abandon the preventive measures that we’ve been taking,” Diane Lauderdale, an epidemiologist and the chair of public health sciences at the University of Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune.
“It’s just considerate to try to avoid getting infected for the time being,” she continued.