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In today's edition:

  • Closing out another pandemic year
  • Holiday travel advice
  • The NFL’s revised testing strategy could be a bellwether
This is our last issue. of 2021. We'll see you in January 2022!
2021 In Review
Whew. 
 
2021 felt like even more of a rollercoaster ride than 2020. For this year’s final issue of Expert Insights, we took stock of what we covered. One thing was constant: upheaval. We endured some enormous losses, but made some major gains.
 
Some big moments: Some big COVID knowledge gains to acknowledge this year: In our world, we celebrated EI’s one-year anniversary in March with the requisite group photo/Zoom screenshot. We put a lot of hard workand some wild ideas—into public health messaging. We explored pandemic life in terms of dating, returning to in-person learning, travel, and holidays. We rethought the concept of herd immunity in the context of sluggish global vaccine rollouts and emerging variants of concern like omicronwhich is more transmissible than delta and wrecking the curve’s downward trajectory with an unforeseen spike in new infections. 
 
In 2022, all of us will continue to adapt to COVID in new ways, but the nation will ideally focus its response toward strategies to protect high-risk individuals from severe disease and death. We’ll continue to share pandemic takeaways from experts as well as insights on other urgent public health issues.
 
Thank you for sticking with us this year and we wish you the very best for 2022. See you on January 4. 
 
—The Editors
Backstage at Public Health On Call: 2021 In Review with Dr. Josh Sharfstein and Stephanie Desmon

In the last episode of Season 4, Lindsay Smith Rogers talks with co-hosts Josh Sharfstein and Stephanie Desmon about 2021: how it started, what happened, and how it's going now. They reflect on where we were one year ago, talk about their favorite episodes and public health moments, give some reading suggestions, and discuss what they're most looking forward to in 2022. If you're in need of a chuckle, stick around for a surprise at the end. Look for the podcast tomorrow here.
Make my wish come true. All I want for Christmas is… your health.

Also, a weighted blanket—but a safe Christmas for those who celebrate is priority number one. 
 
That’s why we’ve compiled these tips for traveling this holiday season—especially as we keep an eye on the omicron variant.
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Omicron! Your spike protein… woof! 
 
This holiday season, help us raise awareness about the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations (and boosters). Here’s a visualization of how vaccines provide our best line of defense against severe illness.
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Omicron sweeps across nation, now 73% of new US COVID cases (Associated Press)
Omicron is responsible for an estimated 90% or more of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest. The national rate suggests that more than 650,000 omicron infections occurred in the U.S. last week. Amesh Adalja says “all of us have a date with omicron,” adding that “if you’re going to interact with society, if you’re going to have any type of life, omicron will be something you encounter, and the best way you can encounter this is to be fully vaccinated.”

COVID-19 testing wasn't where it needed to be. Then Omicron hit. (CBSNews.com)
The surge in demand for nearly every variety of COVID-19 test, including lab-based tests, rapid antigen tests administered at the point of care, and at-home testing kits, comes as the Omicron variant again upends how we interact as a society. "We are definitely lagging in our capacity," says Keri Althoff. "Testing has been such a huge challenge since the very beginning of this epidemic and there have been times where it's gotten better. Sadly, we have not mastered it and Omicron is a formidable challenger to our testing system—and it's clear we are not keeping up."

NFL’s covid-testing plan could fuel spread, experts say, but it’s ‘where society is going’ (The Washington Post)
After dozens of players tested positive last week, throwing the league’s schedule into chaos, the NFL overhauled its testing strategy, saying it will no longer conduct regular testing of vaccinated players who show no signs of illness. The new policy could keep teams from losing key players during the season’s final weeks. But it also means more players and staff will probably walk into — and out of — team facilities unknowingly infected. Amesh Adalja says “there’s never been strong value in testing asymptomatic vaccinated people outside of exposures. Leagues did that reflexively, and it led to a lot of diagnosed cases,” adding, “I think [we’ve] got to move away from that type of paradigm.”
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