Omicron: How Worried Should We Be?


Jamie Greenberg

It seems like all anyone has been talking about for the past two years is Covid. There is always a new variant popping up somewhere in the world: alpha, beta, delta, etc. History repeated itself on November 24, 2021, when Botswana reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, omicron. On December 1, 2021, the first case of omicron in the U.S. was reported right here in sunny California. As planes are delayed, vacations are canceled, friends and family are sick, fear and frustration are spreading faster than the new variant.

Scientists don’t know much about omicron yet. It is a relatively new variant, after all. What we do know is that it spreads faster than the original Covid-19 virus and most likely the other variants as well. Severity is also being contested right now, but the good news is that the early strains in South Africa were relatively mild, and many people in the U.S. who had or have omicron report symptoms of just a mild cold. Vaccines are expected to protect against severe cases, hospitalizations, and death. So getting that booster may be a good idea, especially for those with increased risk. 

As for the statistics, 73% of all new infections in the U.S. are due to omicron which has become the dominant variant in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly a six-fold increase in omicron’s share of infections in only a week. However, in the New York area, parts of the Southeast, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest, omicron accounts for 90% or more of new infections. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said that these numbers reflect what other countries are experiencing as well. 

This may all sound very frightening, but the best thing to do to keep yourself safe is to wear a mask, get the vaccine if you can, and keep your gatherings small. Life will go on. Omicron appeared quickly, and we can hope it will disappear even faster. Stay safe, everyone.