We Can’t Stop Reporting Covid Cases

With record-breaking Covid case counts sweeping the country once more, many experts have called for a shift from reporting cases to simply recording hospitalizations and deaths. The weak rationale behind this shift is related to the assumption that the Omicron variant is more transmissible but only causes “mild cases” for those who are vaccinated and boosted. Implementing a shift to reporting hospitalizations and deaths would be a grave mistake that endangers many lives.

Understanding infection rates in our communities is critical knowledge that keeps us safe by allowing us to modify our behavior based on risk. I like to use a simple weather analogy when assessing personal risk. If it’s sunny outdoors, you can head out and enjoy the day. Similarly, if infection rates are low in your community, you can feel comfortable going about your everyday activities with few precautions. When it’s drizzling, you may pop open an umbrella. When it’s pouring, you slip on a raincoat and rain boots as well. This may be akin to wearing a mask and avoiding indoor or high-risk activities.

But when there’s a hurricane warning, you head to the safest part of your home and hunker down until the danger has passed. Unfortunately, Omicron has led us into the path of the hurricane, and if we have the privilege to do so, we should be sheltering at home until it passes. The warning that this variant was highly transmissible was delivered in the form of surging case counts which immediately informed the decision to modify our behavior. That’s how we have to think about this pandemic and how we can protect ourselves.

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Originally published on Forbes on Jan 12, 2022

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.