Why you shouldn’t just ‘get COVID over with’


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As the omicron variant continues to make its way through cities, causing breakthrough infections in the fully vaccinated and some reinfections in people who’ve already had COVID, it may start to feel as if everyone’s getting sick.

If you’ve been spared a bout of COVID-19 thus far while others you know have tested positive, maybe you’ve wondered: Should I just expose myself and get it over with?

No, says Dr. Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“There are several problems with this line of thinking,” Beyrer told CNET. First, he said, though your risk of severe COVID is now rare if you’re vaccinated and boosted, some vaccinated people have had serious cases. And if you aren’t vaccinated, that risk is much higher. So why take the chance?

Secondly, vaccinated people can still spread the virus, Beyrer said, which puts others at risk who didn’t choose to be sick. Elderly adults, people who are immunocompromised or children under 5 years old would be particularly at risk if you ran into them in your apartment building as you were isolating, for instance, or if you encountered them at the grocery store before you realized you were sick.

Third, he said, there’s the risk of long COVID, which develops in about 15% to 20% of people with a confirmed COVID-19 infection — including people who had relatively mild cases. These symptoms can range from bothersome to debilitating and disruptive to daily life. 

Is catching the virus that’s caused a pandemic inevitable? With the omicron variant, some experts have said, maybe. But choosing to get sick just to get it over with has consequences beyond you, even if you’ll never know it. 

Getting sick together: Like a chickenpox party? 

“Pox parties” or parents intentionally exposing their children to chickenpox so they’d get immunity while young, were big before there was a vaccine for chickenpox, Beyrer said (adding that the generation that got chickenpox is now susceptible to shingles). There’s no room for that mentality when it comes to COVID-19. “COVID is now a significantly preventable disease,” he said. 

As a scenario, we proposed this to Beyrer: Five fully vaccinated young adults in their 20s, who feel they’re generally healthy and will likely get a mild case of COVID-19, decide to get COVID together in order to be done with it. What could happen? 

Though the odds are low for anyone in this group getting really sick, Beyrer said, on average one of them will develop long COVID. And for neighbors of the group isolating together, including people who are immunocompromised, elderly or under the age of 5, the cluster in the group could lead to severe disease.

“With a virus as infectious as omicron, these infections can propagate widely,” Beyrer said. “And these five young people would likely never know who they might have harmed.” 

Another thing to note is that COVID-19 isn’t a “one and done” disease for everyone, and many people are battling it a second time after getting sick earlier in the pandemic. As the Cleveland Clinic notes, natural immunity wanes over time, like nonboosted vaccine immunity.

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Even though the pandemic may feel like it’ll never ease up, trying to get infected puts you at unnecessary risk and strains our depleted health care system.


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Just because omicron is causing less severe disease doesn’t mean it’s not serious 

Omicron is leading to fewer hospitalizations and deaths than delta, Beyrer said. But it’s also way more contagious, which is causing the number of cases to skyrocket. And just because it’s causing less severe disease for the average person doesn’t mean it will for everyone.

“When you have so many millions of cases,…



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