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Don't catch omicron on purpose to get it over with, epidemiologist warns

Health experts said that just because omicron is linked to milder cases of the virus, trying to intentionally contract it is a bad idea.

NORFOLK, Va. — Studies out of South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. highlighted that, compared to the delta variant, someone who contracts omicron is far less likely to die because from COVID-19.

One study out of Kaiser Permanente Southern California compares omicron patients to those with delta. It showed that the risk of death from omicron is 91% lower than delta and the risk of going to the hospital is smaller by 53%.

The same study also stated an omicron patient stayed in the hospital for a shorter period than someone with delta, by days.

"It looks like illness is not as severe," said Marshall Vogt, senior epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health.

However, Vogt dismissed any notion of intentionally exposing yourself to COVID-19 to get it over with," describing it as "really risky and overall unwise.”

"Just because you might not have a bad run of illness with it does not mean that your contacts might not have bad cases of it," he said.

And Vogt described it the other way around, "just because your brother-in-law or co-worker had a very mild case, you might not.”

People in Norfolk weighed in too.

"It's pretty obnoxious to hear," John Bradley added. He said everyone should be playing a role in stopping the spread.

"It shouldn't be going on for this long, but people aren't being smart about it," he said.

Health experts nationwide are warning against "omicron parties" or gatherings where people are trying to catch the virus on purpose.

"I think it's really interesting. I don't know how I personally feel about it. I don't think I would go to a party like that," said Jane Shin, another Norfolk resident.

Vogt doubled down on the consequences, like possibly catching long-haul symptoms or putting additional strain on already-stretched health care systems.

"Yes, we do have a lot of mild illness happening right now. But because we do have a lot of illness happening, the severe illness that we have is starting to stack up," said Vogt.

He instead suggested tools like the vaccine, booster, masks and distancing.

“Just continue to stick with it, continue to try to do what’s right, not just for yourself, but others around you —  your loved ones, for the medical community, for the public health workers," said Vogt.

"I hope that everyone stays healthy and that we can all get through this," Shin added.