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The New Covid-19 Variant, Omicron

A new Covid-19 variant has been reported in the past week, called Omicron. The World Health Organization confirmed that the first report of Omicron came from South Africa; however, it isn’t yet known where the variant originated. 

A growing number of cases in over 40 countries such as Israel, Belgium, and Germany have spiked worldwide concern in the possible implications of Omicron.

The first known case of Omicron was detected from a specimen collected on November 9, 2021.The variant is different from other variants of Covid-19, seeing how quickly officials in South Africa reported it to the World Health Organization.

On December 1, 2021, a confirmed case of the variant was detected in California, through an individual who had recently travelled to South Africa. Just a day after the report, health officials in Minnesota, New York, and Colorado reported multiple new cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant.

Scientists are still investigating the new variant in attempts to understand how transmissible it is, vaccine effectiveness, and what long-term effects it holds. Though it is highly mutated, there is no cause for alarm regarding its symptoms.

Compared to other Covid variants, Omicron holds minor symptoms and seems to be non-life-threatening at the moment. However, considering its current mutation rate, there is a possibility that Omicron will eventually surpass Delta as the dominant variant globally.

President Joe Biden released a statement earlier in the week, announcing measures that will be taken in regard to Omicron.

Among these measures are expanding vaccination for Americans who have been resistant to vaccination, providing booster shots to all those eligible, and requiring insurance companies to cover at-home tests

“We knew there would be cases of Omicron in the United States and it is here. But we have the best tools, the best vaccines, the best medicine, and the best scientists in the world. We are going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion,” stated the President

Eight southern African countries were subject to controversial travel bans by the Biden administration. Meanwhile, officials in the United States are imposing travel restrictions once again. 

No additional measures are being taken as of right now, such as post-arrival quarantine or testing, but officials stated in a press briefing, “If additional measures can be implemented well and are effective, we won’t hesitate to take them.”

The Omicron variant continues to vastly spread throughout the United States, now being confirmed in at least 8 states, from Hawaii to Pennsylvania. As of right now, all symptoms are moderate and of peripheral concern. The variant is certainly not a cause for major concern, but usual precautions should be taken regardless. These measures include wearing a mask, getting your Covid-19 vaccine if eligible, and maintaining social distance in public areas. Nonetheless, Omicron is now being closely studied in an effort to answer questions such as how transmissible it is, whether existing vaccines will be effective against it, and what further measures should be taken.

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