Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, and his family have tested positive for the coronavirus. Dr. Murthy said Friday that he and his wife had mild symptoms.
He had muscle aches, chills and a sore throat, he said on Twitter, while his wife had a headache and fatigue. His said that his 5-year-old son had a low-grade fever, and that his 4-year-old daughter, who tested positive over the weekend, was improving.
He expressed the same frustration that parents share every day when their children get sick, knowing they are having to expose themselves while comforting their loved ones. But it was a choice he said he and his wife would make again.
“When you’ve been as safe as you can, getting Covid-19 can be frustrating and disappointing,” Dr. Murthy wrote. “I’ve felt that. It can also be a source of shame. Many people assume you must have been careless to get sick. Our safety measures reduce risk, but they can’t eliminate risk. Nothing can.”
That one of the leading U.S. government authorities on public health and his family have been infected with Covid underscores how extraordinarily transmissible the Omicron variant is, and just how accurate the forecast for the variant was.
Even though new case numbers in many places have come back down to what they were before the latest surge, the average daily infections from Omicron in the U.S. are more than 100,000 and the average daily deaths are more than 2,300. And it does this while appearing to cause less severe illness than its predecessors.
Omicron has infected untold millions, and might well have infected many more that were not tested. At the same time, tens of millions of people remain vulnerable.
Health officials had estimated in 2020 that vaccinating about 70 percent of the population might get the country past the herd immunity threshold, meaning the coronavirus would become a far less significant threat. The United States is approaching that level, with 65 percent of the population fully vaccinated and 76 percent having had one dose.
But waning immunity, new variants and people who choose to remain unvaccinated have helped make herd immunity, and the idea that the virus could be stopped, a relic of the early pandemic.But the population’s immunity against the virus will remain imperfect, for a variety of reasons, and it is unlikely that the coronavirus will ever disappear, many scientists now say.
Dr. Murthy used himself as an example to remind people of the threat Omicron continues to pose.
“So if you’ve done everything you can and gotten Covid-19 anyway, don’t beat yourself up,” he wrote. “A lot of us are doing the best we can. And let’s not assume those who get sick are careless. We don’t know people’s circumstances. They may not be able to protect themselves the way we can.”