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How Omicron is changing the COVID-19 rules: Here’s what you need to know

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How Omicron is changing the COVID-19 rules: Here’s what you need to know

With the Omicron COVID-19 variant sweeping across New York City — and dampening holiday plans — it’s presenting an entirely new set of questions about vaccinations, quarantining, symptoms and testing.

“We are seeing positivity rates go up across New York,” said Dr. Daniel Baker, medical director of Lenox Hill Hospital. “And that is partly due to the fact that everyone is getting tested. But let’s not forget that also means the disease is there.”

According to Baker, most available data is not yet based on the Omicron variant, so much of the newer information floating around is anecdotal.

“What we are seeing in South Africa and in the UK is that this variant is exceptionally transmissible and good at breakthrough infections,” said Baker. But he said that the current CDC guidelines for quarantining and exposure haven’t changed.

Risky symptoms on seminar between business people. A businessman sneezing and coughing in the boardroom while his colleagues with face masks defending themselves from coronavirus.
Shutterstock / Dusan Petkovic; NY Post illustration

“Our data is so limited with Omicron. So while we should not yet rewrite our playbook, it is time to rethink some of it.”

Here, Baker answers some pressing questions and sheds light on what we know so far about the new variant.

A potentially briefer quarantine

Baker said experts are now reassessing whether vaccinated people who are infected need to be isolated for 10 full days. “There is data coming out that said vaccinated people have the same viral load in the early stages, which is why they can still transmit the disease. [But] it seems that they clear the viral load quicker than unvaccinated people,” said Baker. While there isn’t a definitive conclusion yet, Baker said to cut isolation time from 10 to five days, people would still need two negative COVID-19 tests.

You should still test if you’re asymptomatic and vaccinated

When available and accessible, get tested for covid-19
When available and accessible, get tested for COVID-19.
MediaNews Group via Getty Images

In a perfect world, we would be testing as a community. “If we all did surveillance testing, that would help us understand how far and wide COVID has spread,” Baker said. But long lines at testing sites and scarcely available at-home tests has made that a lofty goal. So what should one do if they are vaccinated and have come in contact with an infected person?

“If you are asymptomatic and vaccinated, I would still recommend testing three days” after being exposed, said Baker.

If you test positive, notify anyone you’ve been in contact with over the past 5 days

If you test positive, tell anyone you potentially exposed over the previous five days
If you test positive, tell anyone you potentially exposed over the previous five days.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

You may have heard that Omicron produces symptoms more quickly than the older variants, but Baker says such information is still anecdotal. After a positive test, you should still notify people you’ve been in contact with over the past five days — a more “conservative” approach that’s been “done with previous variants,” Baker said.

“If studies show Omicron comes on and clears quicker, we can change that,” said Baker, adding that he recently dined with a fully vaccinated and boosted friend who tested positive for COVID-19. “Rightfully so, she called me and we talked it through. We all got tested and luckily I was negative. That would be assuming she even had it when she came to dinner. But let’s be honest and have that conversation with each other.”

Test before travel — even if you’re boosted

Don't cancel travels, but be cautious by testing and following mask mandates
Don’t cancel travels, but be cautious by testing and following mask mandates.
REUTERS

Since the start of the pandemic, a key message has been to wear masks and practice social distancing to protect neighbors and family members who are most at risk. The latest moral dilemma? Holiday travel that might take Omicron out of the city and spread it wider.

“I am not saying don’t travel,” Baker said. “But vaccinated and boosted individuals still need to be diligent. Try to test before you go and be very cautious while traveling.”

The current wave may not be as deadly due to growing immunity

“Yes, hospitalizations will go up, but I don’t think it will go up to levels seen in previous waves,” said Baker, adding it is not a fait accompli that everyone will get it. One of his big concerns is that health care workers will be forced to quarantine due to Omicron infection, leading to a strain on the hospital system.

As of this morning, Northwell Health Network, which has 22 hospitals across New York City, Long Island and Westchester, is treating 446 patients, as opposed to nearly 1,000 patients this time last year.

“What we will see moving forward is there will be an increasing population of those with immunity,” said Baker, whether that’s from vaccination, a previous COVID infection or a mix of both. “I am hoping this population helps us get to a point where it could relieve future concern” about COVID.

What to do if you simply can’t get a test

Even Santa and his elves can't deliver at home covid tests this year.
Even Santa and his elves can’t deliver at-home COVID-19 tests this year.
EPA

When all else fails and you’ve been exposed and can’t get a test, Baker said to fall back on conventional COVID wisdom.

“You have to monitor yourself and recognize that minor symptoms you would attribute to colds could very well be symptoms of COVID in boosted individuals,” he said. “Wear masks indoors where there is a mandate and curtail some of your social activities within the first three to five days of the exposure.”

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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