The Omicron Variant in the U.S.
By Kathleen Zapata '24
Though it finally seemed like life was coming back to normal as we got vaccinated and headed back to in-person school, the latest variant has reminded us that COVID is not over yet.
The Omicron variant has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization. First identified in South Africa, the variant quickly spread among the population there and hospitalizations in the country have increased.
On November 29, the CDC announced the first case in the United States, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, after a person travelling from South Africa returned to San Francisco. The traveller is currently self-quarantining, and all close contacts have tested negative.
“The individual was fully vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms which are improving at this point,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House Chief Medical Advisor, confirmed during a press briefing. “We know what we need to do to protect people: get vaccinated--if you’re not already vaccinated--get boosted, masking in indoor settings, etc.” Though fully vaccinated, the individual in San Francisco was not boosted, but being vaccinated offered substantial protection that helped mitigate their symptoms.
Since this first case in California, cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed in 17 U.S. states (as of the first week of December). The United States joins the dozen countries who have reported cases of the variant. On November 26, the U.S. announced travel restrictions to and from South Africa and surrounding countries.
Gov. Gavin Newsom urged calm to Californians in a Twitter statement on _____: “There’s no reason to panic--but we should remain vigilant. That means get vaccinated. Get boosted. Wear a mask indoors.” He later confirmed in a briefing that the possibility of a lockdown is unlikely.
As scientists take the next weeks to better understand this variant, it should be a strong reminder to keep taking precautions to help mitigate the spread of the virus. If not yet, it is highly recommended and encouraged to get vaccinated. Even if you are vaccinated, you should still be cautious of the new variant by keeping your mask on indoors. If you are 18 and over, it is strongly suggested that you receive the booster shots, as it gives you significant protection against the Omicron variant. To get the latest information, visit cdc.gov.