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Covid May See a Lull After Omicron, Helping Economy

Some experts predict a lull in the Covid pandemic after the omicron strain passes, with more people having immunity.
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Some experts predict a lull in the Covid pandemic after the omicron strain passes, which would be a welcome development for the economy.

By that point many more people will have immunity to Covid through vaccination and infection.

“I think we will have a relative lull,” Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told Stat. But he said it will take weeks for omicron to ease in most parts of the country.

Scott Hensley, a vaccines researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Immunology, maintains omicron is the pandemic’s last wave.

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“None of us think the virus is going to go away, but the virus will have less opportunity to change because there will be fewer hosts that it can replicate in,” he told Stat. “And in an immune population, disease severity will be less.”

Omicron certainly isn’t helping the economy. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg this month predict GDP growth of 3% for the first quarter, down from 3.9% in the December survey, thanks to the spread of the omicron Covid variant.

But Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told Congress last week that we’re learning to cope. "What we are seeing is an economy that functions right through these waves of Covid," he said.

"If the experts are right and omicron is going to go through really quickly and peak perhaps within a month and come down after that, I think it is likely you will see lower hiring and perhaps a pause in growth, but it should be short-lived."

The Bloomberg economist survey produced a median forecast for average annualized growth of 3.8% per quarter this year. That’s down just 10 basis points from the last survey.