'Vaccines are available': Doctor explains the biggest difference for second winter COVID-19 wave

Dr. Payal Patel, an infectious diseases physician at the University of Michigan, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the outlook for coronavirus cases and the Omicron variant for the upcoming winter.

Video transcript

- I have to ask you how you're doing because we do know that Michigan now has set a record for hospitalizations, leading the nation in new coronavirus cases, at least on a per-capita basis. So how are you, how is your staff, how are your team, how are the medics holding up?

PAYAL PATEL: Yeah, thank you so much for asking. You know, I think that, unfortunately, we've been here before. And one year later, you know, we're back where we were a year ago. A lot of things have changed. And the biggest things that have changed are the vaccines are available. And so here in the state of Michigan, about 55% of the population is vaccinated and, you know, 45% is not vaccinated.

And so unfortunately, a lot of what we're seeing in our hospitals are folks who didn't get vaccinated. And often, people who don't get vaccinated live with others that are also unvaccinated. And so that can spread in a household much easier when everyone is unvaccinated. So we're seeing often, you know, family members, household members coming in. It's definitely tough for everyone involved, those in the hospital and those working in the hospital, as well.

EMILY MCCORMICK: Dr. Patel, this Emily McCormick here. I'm wondering, with that 45% rate of unvaccinated individuals, what do you think needs to change in order to get that rate lower and the vaccinated rate higher?

PAYAL PATEL: Yeah, you know, you know, that-- that's a great question. And some of those-- some of those unvaccinated are kids and, you know, young babies and young adults. But you know, the vaccine has now been out for young adults, and now kids, for a while. And so I really think that, you know, especially right now, parents really need to-- instead of, you know, kind of waiting and watching, really need to be thinking about getting their kids vaccinated. That's going to lead to a much easier winter, and then hopefully easier beginning of the next year, as well, for the whole family.

- I don't know if we have any data on this because a lot seems to come from Israel, but now they're talking three doses for vaccines. In Israel, it's four. Are we going to be talking about, OK, I got my booster, but now I need to get a booster for the booster?

PAYAL PATEL: You know, the news and everything has been so unpredictable along the way. I mean, just before Thanksgiving, right, we knew nothing about the newest variant. And so it's so hard to predict. We can only say, you know, what do we know today. And given the news that's kind of come out overnight, it does look like a booster, if you've gotten two doses, or a third dose does make sense.

You've got to keep in mind that, in most of the world, many people are still-- you know, still have yet to get that second dose, may not have boosters available yet. And so we're lucky to have that third dose available. And we should choose to get that right now to kind of protect ourselves and our families through this winter season.

EMILY MCCORMICK: And Dr. Patel, speaking of the winter season, I'm wondering, are you observing any changes in consumer behavior, any return to any kind of stay at home behavior on a voluntary basis, especially as we've now had this news of the omicron variant?

PAYAL PATEL: You know, unfortunately-- I'm sure all of you have seen the same thing-- you know, it's quite the opposite. You know, you think of one year ago, how all of us were, you know, in a grocery store or having masks in the car. We definitely are in a different place, especially if you're vaccinated. But we've got to keep these guards up. And so I do feel like there's been lapses. And I totally understand that, but there's definitely been lapses in mask wearing, thinking about going out, all of those things. They've really changed, and I think that's really contributing to the rise in cases.

- Do you have any sense of when-- I don't want to use the word normal, but I'm at the office today, an office built for several hundred people, and there are roughly five. And it's a little quiet. I won't use the word sad, because I see people I like who are here, the other four, but when do we get back to, you know, seeing people and doing the kinds of things that we once did without thinking about it?

PAYAL PATEL: Yeah, you know, I do think this is baby steps. And I'm hoping that the holiday season will be one of those-- you know, Thanksgiving already and Christmas, especially, again, if you are in a family that's vaccinated-- your parents, your siblings, and the children who can get vaccinated-- that's going to be a lot safer than where we were one year ago, where many people were not vaccinated.

So I think, you know, start with baby steps. Holiday gatherings, makes a lot of sense right now to perhaps test before everyone sits down for a meal together. But I would say that would be a really nice step back into the things that we enjoyed in the before.

- Want to wish you and everybody at the University of Michigan the best. Dr. Patel, infectious disease physician at University of Michigan.