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KPCC: CA Preps for Winter Surge, How Omicron Compares to Other Strains and More

KPCC show AirTalk recently featured Sam Torbati, MD, co-chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, updating listeners on recent COVID-19 developments.

AirTalk host Larry Mantle noted that the U.S. surgeon general issued a public health advisory about pandemic-related mental health challenges facing adolescents and teens, including a dramatic increase in emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts.

Torbati told Mantle that he had seen evidence of this at Cedars-Sinai. He called on the government, community groups, schools, parents and teens to help address the issue. "I have teenage kids myself," Torbati said. "I hear it in their voices. It’s a real phenomenon that we need to get on top of."

But the biggest pandemic-related story continues to be the spread of new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Torbati said early data suggest that the omicron variant could outpace the delta variant as the dominant strain because of its greater transmissibility. But because we won’t know more about omicron for weeks or months, he stressed the need to follow current recommendations regarding vaccinations and boosters.

Torbati told Mantle that boosters could become an annual necessity and eventually be combined with the influenza vaccine. "Depending on what happens to [the COVID-19] virus, how it behaves, how virulent it becomes, and what the host immune system does with these infections, we may need that," he said.

Torbati added that Cedars-Sinai is preparing for a possible winter COVID-19 surge plus the flu, and planning for staffing and space to accommodate an influx of patients. "Even for a very large hospital like ours, it’s challenging," Torbati told Mantle. "We hope it doesn’t turn out to be another crazy wave like last year, but it certainly may, so we’re prepared for it."

Click here to listen to the complete interview from KPCC.