Health expert Dr. Ashish Jha said Sunday that public health officials should stop using COVID-19 case data as the central metric by which the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic is measured.
What did Jha say?
Jha — the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a former health expert at Harvard University — explained on ABC News' "This Week" the Omicron variant changes the game.
According to Jha, using case data to determine the severity of the pandemic is no longer reliable because Omicron appears less virulent despite being highly contagious.
"We have to do a shift. Look, for two years infections always preceded hospitalizations, which preceded deaths. So you could look at infections and know what was coming. Even through the Delta wave that was true because it was largely unvaccinated people who were getting infected," Jha explained.
"Omicron changes that. This is the shift we've been waiting for in many ways where we're moving to a phase where if you're vaccinated and particularly if you're boosted, you might get an infection. It might be a couple of days of not feeling so great, but you're going to bounce back. That's very different than what we have seen in the past," he continued. "So, I no longer think infections generally should be the major metric."
"Obviously, we can continue to track infections among unvaccinated people because those people will end up in the hospital at the same rate, but we really have to focus on hospitalizations and deaths now," Jha said.
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Public health officials in the U.S. apparently do not share Jha's position because they have been raising alarm about Omicron based on skyrocketing cases. However, the infection wave has not translated to higher incidences of hospitalization and death in other countries thus far.
In fact, based on rising case numbers and growing panic, leaders are returning to classic mitigation strategies including remote learning, mask mandates, and vaccine mandates.
During an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Jha denounced schools returning to remote learning when Christmas break ends.
"This really shouldn't even be on the table, and I'm disappointed to see this is happening," he said. "Schools should be absolutely the last place to close and the first place to open."