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UW modelers: State might finally be able to end ‘major restrictions’ once omicron wave passes

Jan 21, 2022, 2:22 PM | Updated: Jan 24, 2022, 7:35 am
End restrictions...
(MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

With an omicron-fueled surge in COVID-19 cases finally beginning to wane, modelers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) believe that the region could be nearing the end stages of major virus-related restrictions.

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The IHME has been among the most prominent sources for tracking and predicting the pandemic since it first began nearly two years to the date. Its director, Dr. Chris Murray, delivered a briefing on Friday, detailing how a “period of low transmission” will likely follow the end of the omicron wave.

From there, he believes the relative low levels of severe illness caused by the omicron variant could signal a more endemic approach to the virus moving forward.

“The era of major restrictions is coming to an end in that COVID will be around for the long term, but it will be a disease that, like a bad flu, that we’ll need to manage,” Dr. Murray posited.

From there, the hope is that “we will go back to normal, in the sense that we don’t have any major restrictions on behavior.”

That will be driven by a combination of factors — first, the fact that the high level of omicron variant infections will provide a level of natural immunity for many, and second, the prevalence of vaccines.

New mass COVID vaccination site opens in Snohomish County

“We’ll go into this period where the immunological exposure to COVID is so much higher — both from infection and vaccination — that we won’t see restrictions return,” he predicted.

Murray also qualified that, noting how he is “still going to be cautious” until the omicron wave has fully ended, which he says is still “a few weeks away.”

“Once the wave is through, I think everybody will have to make their own choice,” he said.

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UW modelers: State might finally be able to end ‘major restrictions’ once omicron wave passes