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Essential Updates on Omicron, the Frightening New Covid-19 Variant

Brief Overview:

According to the state dashboard on Tuesday the 27th, California became the first state to record more than five million confirmed COVID-19 infections. This milestone wasn’t entirely shocking in a state with over forty million residents, due to a series of severe winter storms, along with the increasing infection count from holiday parties.  

The first COVID-19 case in California was confirmed on January 25th, 2020. In the following 292 days, the state exceeded 1 million infections and 44 days from then to the top 2 million cases. The California Department of Public Health shared that California’s infection count is also ahead of other large states. Texas has had more than 4.4 million confirmed cases and Florida topped around 4 million as of Monday. 

The CDC listed California as a state with “high” transmission of the virus. In the last week, California averaged 16 new cases per 100,000 people, which is less than a third of the national rate. However, Covid-19 hospitalizations have been rising slowly in California up to about 12% in the last week. California has also recorded more than 75,000 deaths related to the coronavirus. 

It still remains unclear as to how many newly reported cases were attributed to the omicron variant. Much more about the variant remains unknown, including whether or not it causes more or less severe illness than other variants.  

The CDC is continuing to work with state and local public health officials to monitor the Omicron variant. As of December 20th, 2021, the variants have been detected in most states and are rapidly increasing the ratio of COVID-19 cases it is causing. The health departments are expecting a significant surge of COVID-19 cases in the coming days to weeks, especially with the effects of winter break. 

What We Know About Omicron:

Spread 

The CDC shares that it is quite likely that the new variant will spread more easily than the original COVID-19 virus. However, the spreading factor compared to the Delta variant remains unknown. CDC does expect that anyone infected with the variant can spread the infection to others, even if they are fully vaccinated or are asymptomatic.

Severe Illness 

CDC is still collecting and analyzing more data to know if the Omicron infections, and especially reinfection in fully-vaccinated people, cause more severe illnesses, inflections, or death compared to infection with other variants. 

Vaccines 

Current vaccines are still expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to the infection caused by the variant. It is quite likely that breakthrough infections in fully-vaccinated people will occur. With other variants such as Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and even death. The recent and rapid emergence of the Omicron variant emphasizes the importance of vaccinations and boosters.

Scientists and researchers are still working to determine how well the existing treatments for the virus work. Based on the changed genetic make-up of the Omicron variant, some treatments are quite likely to remain effective while others may be less effective at combating the infection.

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