Omicron in the U.S.: What to Know

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Dec. 20 , 2021 -- The Omicron coronavirus variant has been recovered successful dozens of states crossed the state since it was archetypal identified successful South Africa successful November, and galore whitethorn beryllium wondering: Will it upstage Delta and origin a wintertime surge? Is it inactive harmless to stitchery with others for the holidays? How is this variant affecting children?

Experts addressed those and different questions successful a webinar hosted by New York University past week, acknowledging that it volition instrumentality immoderate clip to find retired each the important facts astir Omicron.

But successful the meantime, here's what's known -- and not -- astir Omicron successful the fast-changing COVID landscape.

How wide is Omicron now?

As of Dec. 15, Omicron transmission had been reported successful 80 nations, according to Michael H. Merson, MD, a visiting prof of planetary wellness astatine the New York University School of Global Public Health. In the 35 states with Omicron cases, the numbers vary. Right now, New York and New Jersey are detecting the Omicron variant astatine astir 4 times the wide complaint successful the country, helium said. But whether oregon not the variant volition stay successful ''pockets" is presently unknown, helium said.

How tin radical bask the holidays safely?

When it comes to deciding astir gatherings and travel, "trust your instincts," Elodie Ghedin, PhD, main of the systems genomics conception astatine the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and affiliate module subordinate astatine NYU, said.

"In the past 2 years, you person developed a consciousness for what feels excessively close. This is not April 2020. You person learned a batch successful the past 2 years."

As an illustration of harmless vacation gatherings, the experts cited President Joe Biden's quality past Tuesday astatine a enactment of 400, which was held connected a hotel rooftop owed to COVID concerns.

"It's precise important to walk the holidays with household and friends," Merson said. "But bash truthful wisely. That's my proposal astir travel."

That means getting vaccinated and boosted erstwhile eligible, making usage of accelerated investigating erstwhile called for, masking, handwashing, avoiding crowded indoor spaces, and keeping your region from others.

Knowing your hazard level and that of household and friends erstwhile making plans for the holidays is besides important, Merson said.

Is Omicron greatly affecting children?

Experts are waiting connected information to find out.

"The assemblage is inactive retired connected however virulent Omicron volition beryllium for kids," said Celine R. Gounder, MD, a subordinate of President Biden's COVID-19 task unit and a objective adjunct prof of medicine and infectious diseases astatine NYU Grossman School of Medicine. "We don't know."

The champion happening parents tin bash close present is to vaccinate their children ages 5 years and up who are eligible, she said.

Do monoclonal antibody drugs enactment good against Omicron?

No, Ghedin said.

"Most of the monoclonal antibodies bash not look to enactment precise good against Omicron," she said.

What's known astir however infectious Omicron is?

"It appears to beryllium the astir infectious variant to date," said Gounder.

"Relative to Delta, Omicron appears to beryllium 2-3 times much infectious."

Put different way, she said, you are apt to infect 2 to 3 times much radical than if infected with different variants.

People should not number connected their earthy immunity from a anterior COVID corruption to support them from the Omicron variant, Gounder said.

It besides does look that the Omicron variant mightiness beryllium little virulent than different variants, she said. (Virulence refers to however terrible a illness an infected idiosyncratic tin get.)

If Omicron is little virulent, isn't that bully news?

Yes and no, Gounder said.

"Even if it's a mild disease, you tin inactive person tons of deaths. Let's accidental COVID has a lawsuit fatality complaint of 1% and you person 100 radical who get infected -- and 1 death,” she said.

Then accidental Omicron's complaint is .25%, but if you person 400 cases, since it is much infectious, that's inactive 1 death.

"We truly person to beryllium precise cautious erstwhile we accidental little deadly and little terrible [when talking astir Omicron]. On a colonisation level, Omicron could beryllium conscionable arsenic deadly arsenic Delta adjacent if it causes mild disease, if much are infected,” she said.

If a COVID trial is positive, volition the results specify whether it’s the Delta oregon the Omicron variant?

"Unfortunately, you volition not beryllium capable to get that accusation from a PCR trial done successful the community," Ghedin said. "If you are doing it done a probe entity, they mightiness supply that information, but I highly uncertainty it."

With much radical vaccinated present than successful the past, tin we see COVID endemic, not a pandemic, now?

No, Gounder said.

"We are obscurity adjacent endemic [status]," she said. "We are inactive precise overmuch pandemic. Saying it is endemic present is similar saying, 'Let's bash nothing.'"

Currently the U.S. is astatine a level of astir 60% of the colonisation vaccinated, she said.

"We truly request to beryllium getting to 85, 90 percent" earlier transitioning into endemic status.

In tropical countries, the flu is endemic, Ghedin said, ''and it's determination year-round. We are not determination with SARS-CoV-2.”

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