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TAG Holds Guarded Optimism for the Ebbing of Omicron

Key Points:

  • In today’s Recommendations for Industry, we discuss our guarded optimism for the ebbing of Omicron. Read more below.
  • OSHA Withdraws Its Workplace Vaccine Rule. On Tuesday, OSHA announced its withdrawal of the November 5, 2021, ETS issued to “protect unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 or more employees) from the risk of contracting COVID–19 by strongly encouraging vaccination.” The withdrawal followed the January 13, U.S. Supreme Court stay of the ETS, finding that challengers were likely to prevail on their claims. In the withdrawal, OSHA stated, “Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the Vaccination and Testing ETS, OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace.” The 6-to-3 Supreme Court’s decision said that OSHA did not have the authority to require workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or tested weekly, describing the agency’s approach as “a blunt instrument.”
  • CDC confirms Omicron less severe than other variants. 31 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico are reporting decreasing or plateauing new COVID-19 case averages, signaling that the massive surge caused by Omicron may be receding. New data published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report show that illnesses caused by Omicron are less severe than previous variants, with the ratio of peak emergency department visits, hospital admissions, and deaths to cases all lower than in other variants. But deaths continue to increase, with more being announced each day than at any time since last winter and hospitalizations appear to be reaching a national peak.
  • Pfizer, BioNTech launch trial of Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech have initiated a clinical study to assess the safety and efficacy of a vaccine for ages 18 to 55 years that targets Omicron.
  • Two countries that experienced early Omicron surges in Europe—Denmark and the Netherlands—are stepping down their restrictions. Denmark’s epidemic committee recommended lifting all COVID-19 restrictions by the end of the month, and that, as of Feb 5, COVID-19 should no longer be categorized as a “socially critical” disease. However, variant surges are accelerating in countries such as Japan and South Korea, triggering tightened measures. South Korea reported a new daily record high for COVID cases, with Omicron now dominant; Japan’s daily total rose above 60,000 for the first time, and officials placed 18 more prefectures under a quasi-state of emergency, which now covers about 70% of the country.
  • The WHO weekly update showed a slow of the steady global rise in COVID-19 cases last week, with cases up 5% compared with the previous week, however Eastern Mediterranean region reported the biggest rise last week and five countries added the most cases to the global total: the United States, France, India, Italy, and Brazil. More than 21 million new cases were reported, marking the highest weekly total since the pandemic began, and deaths remained similar to the previous week, with nearly 50,000 fatalities last week.
  • 75% of COVID ICU survivors have physical symptoms 1 year on. One year after 246 COVID-19 survivors were treated in intensive care units (ICUs) in the Netherlands, nearly 75% reported lingering physical symptoms, more than 26% said they had mental symptoms, and upwards of 16% still had cognitive symptoms, according to a study in JAMA

Public Health:

  • Antibiotic-resistant infections killed more than 1.2 million people in 2019. According to a new estimate published in The Lancet, antibiotic-resistant infections, on the rise globally, killed more than 1.2 million people in 2019. Additionally, researchers estimated that a total of 4.95 million deaths in 2019 were “associated” with bacterial antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Recommendations for Industry

TAG Holds Guarded Optimism for the Ebbing of Omicron

As shown in TAG’s weekly matrix, the Omicron variant of COVID is continuing to follow TAG’s expected quick up/down pattern from East to West across the US. Case rates are declining in the East while cases are still increasing in the West, with the trend appearing to be about a 4 week increase in case rates with a 4 week decline.

In the Eastern US, the transmission rate reduction is looking very encouraging, with the matrix showing some states at the lowest rates since those which were seen at the beginning of the pandemic, including New York (0.67) and New Jersey (0.65).

As discussed in the Key Points (above), Pfizer/BioNTech have launched a trial of an Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine recognizing “the need to be prepared in the event this protection (of boosters) wanes over time and to potentially help address Omicron and new variants in the future.”

Overall, TAG continues to hold guarded optimism for the ebbing of Omicron, and the pandemic in general.

Risk Matrix:

Case rates (and Test Positive Rates) in most states continue to increase. However, as we did see last week, states on the Eastern seaboard are seeing a decline in cases as the Omicron variant continues to move Westward.

In case you missed it

  • In Tuesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the ebbing of Omicron and what a shift to an endemic COVID would really mean. Read more here.
  • The FDA is limiting the use of the following two monoclonal antibodies – (a) bamlanivimad and etesevimab and (b) REGEN-COV – to treat COVID-19 as they are “highly unlikely to be active against the Omicron variant.” And as the Omicron variant now accounts for 99% of all cases in the U.S., these two treatments are not to be used [FDA].
  • Although COVID-19 cases are ebbing, hospititalizations and deaths remain seemingly high [CIDRAP].
  • Pfizer is starting its clinical trial for an Omicron-specific vaccine (CNN).
  • The CDC has designated 15 destinations, including “popular Carribbean travel destinations [like] Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Saint Barthelemy, and Saint Martin” to the Level 4 Very High Risk list (UPI).
  • There seems to be a new version of the Omicron variant, designated BA.2. However, there is no need to panic. There is currently not much information specific to it, and TAG will keep you updated on it as things evolve. Find more in the news at Washington Post or CBS
  • Nature has released a discussion on what it means for something to be endemic. Just because a disease is endemic does not make it harmless or even less deadly.


  • Influenza cases in the U.S. are still high; however, there has been a drop over the past week. The majority of influenza cases are Influenza A; this year’s influenza vaccine tracks similarly to the specific H3N2 virus. This is good news.
  • Globally, “influenza activity remains low but continued to increase especially in the temperate zones of the northern hemisphere. In several countries, influenza activity reached the levels seen this time of year in pre-COVID-19 period.”


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