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Three reasons the COVID-19 pandemic is improving in 2022

No one wanted to start off 2022 with a new wave of COVID-19. Fortunately, there is some good news about the pandemic this year.

TEMPLE, Texas — Texas is now seeing nearly twice as many COVID-19 cases as any other point in the pandemic and ICU beds are filling up again in local hospitals. 6 News spoke to TAMUCT Department of Nursing Director Amy Mersiovsky Tuesday to find out if there was any good news coming up about the pandemic. Here's what we've found out. 

The Omicron variant could lead to fewer deaths

Doctors and health officials are still waiting to confirm that Omicron will be less deadly than previous strains, but available data is starting to support that theory. 

World Health Organization data on The United Kingdom and South Africa show the latest large increase of Omicron cases has not coincided with a large increase of COVID-19 deaths in those countries. Mersiovsky said it's possible that fatalities could increase later on but hopes to see the same trend continue and see the same trend in the U.S. 

Pfizer will soon release an Omicron-targeted vaccine  

NBC reports the CEO's for Pfizer and Moderna are working on a vaccine booster shot specifically designed against Omicron. Health officials have already said the original vaccines are proving less effective against this variant due to its many mutations. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told NBC it could be ready in months. 

"This vaccine will be ready in March. I don't know if we will need it, I don't know if and how it will be used, but it will be ready," Bourla said. 

Insurance companies could soon cover at-home COVID-19 tests

 COVID-19 tests cost around $25 off the shelf, but Mersiovsky told 6 News insurance will soon help pay for that. 

"Insurance will start being required to cover at-home tests shortly," Mersiovsky said. "Up to eight at-home tests per month."

Mersiovsky said ICU beds are still not completely full in local hospitals, and last year they were, but that's far from a win since hospital staff is still stressed and the numbers are still rising. She said there are a few things people can do to help local hospitals. 

"Our hospitals are begging us to get tested elsewhere. They can't handle everyone coming in for a test. They are asking us to call 211 to find a test," Mersiovsky said. "Everything you see about nursing is how short staffed they are and how tired they are." 

Mersiovsky also suggested people "upgrade" their masks by using a surgical mask and placing a cloth mask over it when they are around other people in public. That should reduce the spread of the virus and reduce the strain on local hospitals.

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