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Because omicron is so contagious, should you try to catch it and get it out of the way? Experts say no

Talia Soglin, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Health & Fitness

CHICAGO -- As the super-contagious omicron variant sweeps Chicago, pushing case count graphs vertical, some people who assumed they were safe from infection after they got their vaccines are entering a new psychological stage of the pandemic: a sense that infection is unavoidable.

“It’s so much more contagious,” Maggie Coons, 52, of northwest suburban Palatine, told the Tribune last week. “I feel like there’s nothing we can do to keep from getting it. I feel like it’s inevitable. At this point it’s a dreary resignation instead of a dread or fear.”

Anecdotally, at least, it appears some people may be taking their resignation to the next step: considering whether to purposefully court COVID so they can get it over with.

Health experts say they have been asked whether there is any point in taking precautions if the likelihood of contracting omicron is so high.

While such feelings are understandable, health experts say, people should not abandon preventive public health measures at the height of COVID-19’s latest surge.

“Even if it is true that everyone is eventually going to get, particularly, the omicron variant, it is not a good idea to intentionally try to get it sooner or to completely abandon the preventive measures that we’ve been taking,” said Diane Lauderdale, an epidemiologist and the chair of public health sciences at the University of Chicago.

 

One problem with this line of thinking, Lauderdale said, is that it’s not clear whether getting infected with the omicron variant now will actually make it less likely that someone will get another COVID-19 infection down the line.

“Theoretically, one shouldn’t get the same infection again — or if they did it should be very mild and should be cleared quickly — but with these mutations and the pace of these mutations, it could be possible that one does get an infection again in the next round and the next set of variants,” said Mercedes Carnethon, an epidemiologist who is the vice chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

And even people who are vaccinated and boosted could infect a child under 5 who isn’t eligible for vaccination, or a more vulnerable adult.

“It’s just considerate to try to avoid getting infected for the time being,” Lauderdale said.

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