COVID

Watch: Ashish Jha says there’s ‘no reason to panic’ as omicron spreads rapidly

“We can keep ourselves safe this holiday season and into the new year.”

The COVID-19 omicron variant is spreading rapidly, but Dr. Ashish Jha is urging the public not to panic. 

During an appearance on the “Today” show on Monday, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health reminded viewers that even with surging cases, the United States is in a far better position than when the pandemic prompted lockdowns in March 2020.

“We are not in March 2020, we just aren’t,” he said. “We have fabulous vaccines. So yes, people are having breakthrough infections, but they’re mild and people are doing great. We have lots of tests. I know test lines are getting longer, but we still have plenty of testing around. We know how the virus spreads, and we can protect ourselves with high quality masks.”

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The doctor said there is “no reason to panic.”

“We can keep ourselves safe this holiday season and into the new year,” he said.

Even those who are elderly do not need to worry, he said, as long as they are vaccinated and boosted. A breakthrough infection still could happen, but even in those instances, the elderly individual should “do just fine” as long as they are fully vaccinated and boosted, he said.

For families wondering whether the rise in cases should alter plans to visit grandma or grandpa, the doctor offered advice for the steps that can be taken to try and protect elderly loved ones or those who are at high risk for severe disease. 

First of all, let’s make sure everybody’s vaccinated, everybody [that’s] eligible,” Jha said. “I think a rapid test just before makes a lot of sense. It will make sure you’re not contagious at that moment, and then I think seeing grandma or giving her a hug, taking off your mask at that point is a very reasonable thing to do. So that’s what I would do, that’s what I’m advising my family and friends.”

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Should anyone test positive for COVID-19 during a family gathering, that person needs to isolate, Jha said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still advising individuals who contract the virus to self-isolate for 10 days. 

I think Christmas is so important, this whole holiday season is so important to people,” Jha said of getting together for the holidays. “We missed it last year. I would say if you are vaccinated, if the high risk people are boosted, and especially if you can have some rapid tests, I think it’s a pretty reasonable thing to do. It’s so meaningful to so many of us, that you’ve got to be able to get back with your life, and I think with vaccines, we can.”

Watch his full appearance below:

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