Omicron Variant Enters the US

The coronavirus pandemic has been going on for 21 months now and it seems like there is no end in sight. Almost two years of a virus that kept us completely quarantined and isolated. Although more things have started to open up and most people are back to work and school, new coronavirus variants keep emerging. The original virus was first identified in China and was declared a pandemic in March of 2020. The delta variant was identified in India in December of 2020. Now, the new omicron variant was recently identified in South Africa on November 24 of 2021. Many countries are beginning to set restrictions again to help stop the spread of the pandemic and its variants.

According to an article written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated on December 5, 2021, they don’t know yet how easily it spreads, how severe the sickness could become, or how well the original Coronavirus vaccine and medicines work to fight against it. The Omicron variant has been detected in 15 U.S. states so far. The CDC also predicts that the Omicron variant will spread easier than the original virus and the Delta variant is still a huge concern despite the amount of attention currently on the Omicron variant. 

For more research, I found another article written by Grady Mcgregor on December 6, 2021 titled Evidence mounts that Omicron is more infectious, less severe than Delta—but Fauci, other experts warn against premature optimism. This article states that early studies have said that the Omicron variant is producing less severe infections than previous viruses however Dr. Fauci warns against making conclusions about a virus that only began 12 days ago. Since the virus was identified in South Africa and they have very low vaccination rates, it is hard to tell how preventative the vaccines are. Only 25% of South Africa’s population is fully vaccinated. This article also touches on the ‘sharp rise’ in the number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals. This article also states that South Africans health care officials do not see the new strain as a threat to their health care systems.

According to an article by Komonews, the Omicron variant could pose a greater threat to children which I was surprised to hear because for the most part children were kept healthy during the pandemic thus far. Waasila Jassat, a South African government medical advisor, said “now, at the start of this fourth wave, we have seen quite a sharp increase across all age groups, but particularly in the under 5s”. According to the South African Health Ministry, hospitalizations of children under age 5 in the Tshwane area have been five times higher in recent weeks than during the country’s previous wave of infections. Experts think this could be because they are the least likely age group to be vaccinated or previously infected. 

To further research, I decided to interview a 21 year old college student on her thoughts of the Omicron variant. When asked her opinion, she said “when I first found out about the new variant, I was very upset because I thought we were finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but now it just feels like we are going backwards. I am a senior in college, graduating in the spring, and don’t want this variant to affect anymore of my college experience”. I think that a lot of people are really scared that this new variant is going to create many more restrictions to begin again after things finally opened back up again. “I hope the new variant turns out to be just like a cold but it’s scary when social media makes it sound so bad”, she said. 

For another perspective, I wanted to interview my Dad to see his thoughts on the new variant coming to the US. When I asked him his opinion he said, “I would hate to see people out of work for so long again, it truly was such a tough time for so many families and no one deserves that. I think this is our new normal now and I would not be surprised if there were more strains in the future. I think the Delta variant is still going to be the one to watch out for over the next few months”. 

Overall, we all have to be more cautious over the next few colder months to try to prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant which has been said to spread easier than previous variants. There are many ways to prevent the spread of viruses such as staying up to date on your vaccines, wearing a mask, getting tested, and staying home if you feel sick. This is our new normal and so far we are 21 months and counting.

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