The Omicron Variant: What We Know Now

Remember thinking that the Delta variant represented the worst of the pandemic? Wrong!

According to the CDC, the new Omicron variant, which was first detected in Botswana on November 11th and confirmed in 89 countries, is spreading even faster than delta. And within the US, the number of people infected by Omicron could surpass the number of Delta cases already reported.

The first Omicron case in the United States was discovered in California on December 1, 2021. Cases within the United States appear to double every 2-4 days. This variant is also spreading at a quicker rate than any other strain of Coronavirus in the past, according to the World Health Organization.
With the rapid spread of this extremely mutated variant, there is much worry over whether the vaccines will protect against Omicron. This worry stems from the fact that the mutations may allow Omicron to avoid the antibodies created from the vaccines or the natural immunity received from prior infection. In South Africa, it was found that this idea was true, as the Pfizer vaccine was much less effective against the Omicron variant, but still greatly reduced the chance for hospitalization or death.
Hospitals are quickly becoming more crowded as critical illness is surging in states like Maryland, where hospitalizations increased 150% in two weeks, and New York.

Because of the newness of the variant, more studies need to be done to better understand its impact and spread. Still, the CDC suspects that anyone containing the Omicron variant may spread it to others, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or feeling asymptomatic.

Despite the possibility of Omicron spreading to vaccinated individuals, it is of utmost importance to receive the vaccines since they appear to help defend against serious sickness, hospitalization, and death. Receiving the booster shot also significantly decreases the risk of Omicron, as Pfizer reveals that its booster crucially protects against the variant during tests. For those who received their vaccine over six months ago, the booster shot is incredibly important for protection and should be received as soon as possible.

Hearing about the rapidly spreading new variant is understandably nerve-wracking, but the good news is that the infections of vaccinated individuals do not seem to result in severe symptoms. Notably, triple vaccinated individuals are strongly protected.
Continuing on a positive note, in comparison to other variants, there appears no higher risk of serious illness for children.
Going into winter, cases are expected to increase and so should precautionary measures. To help stay healthy, continue to wear a mask, get vaccinated, stay in small groups, and avoid individuals who appear reckless or unwilling to follow COVID protocols. Masks are also suggested indoors and in group settings by the nation’s Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Fauci to reduce the chance of infection.

The CDC is continuing to update its news about the Omicron variant and is the central source for information to keep yourself and those around you safe and healthy heading into 2022.