Omicron Varient COVID-19 Cases At an All-Time High

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While the Omicron variant is less severe than other variants, you can still be affected even if you are vaccinated. December 20, 2021. The new variant may be a step in the right direction towards the end of COVID-19. (Muaz Kory/Al Jazeera)

While everyone was excited to celebrate the holidays with their family or to travel, the new variant of COVID-19, Omicron began to surface around the world. 

As sudden as it was, the new strand began to spread quickly causing many to have to quarantine during the end of December 2021 through early January 2022. Although less severe than previous variants, the speed at which Omicron infected many caused the world to become riddled with fear. Many were scared of everything closing just as it did in 2020 when COVID-19 shook the world. 

Omicron infections spread faster than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and can spread to people regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not. Although some may not experience symptoms, common symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  •  Congestion and runny nose 
  • Sore throat
  • Headache

While these symptoms seem minor, there is still a possibility of severe disease due to the Omicron variant. During the holiday season, everyone was rushing to find testing availability for the virus to be able to see their families or travel, but many were not able to secure a test because of the high demand during the end of December. 

Emily Kuhl, an intern at Lambert High School for private COVID-19 testing at myGenomics, has experienced the surge of people coming in for testing.

At my work, we primarily administer testing for international travelers,” Kuhl stated. “Over the holidays, we tested hundreds of people per day because so many people were traveling for the holidays. At the same time, we were definitely getting a spike in the number of tests that came back positive.” 

With Omicron, although it may be harder to become hospitalized, many people are not taking the new variant seriously and have proceeded to not take extra precautions during the surge.

“I don’t believe people are treating it [COVID-19] with the severity to which it deserves,” Kuhl said. “Though you might think you are at low risk of getting COVID, you can just as easily expose others and put them at risk. People can react very differently to COVID-19 so just by taking the time to maintain safety precautions we can do our part in slowing down the spread and keeping each other safe.”

As bad as the Omicron surge sounds, many believe it may be the end of COVID-19’s pandemic phase. This variant, out of all the rest, may transfer from person to person quickly but does not affect a large number of people in a detrimental way as the others have during the pandemic. This would be possible if another variant comes up that is less severe than the past ones. 

“It is an open question as to whether or not Omicron is going to be the live virus that everyone is hoping for because you have such a great deal of variability with new variants emerging,” Dr. Fauci said

As studies are being conducted, doctors recommend getting vaccinated, wearing masks and staying home and getting tested if you are experiencing symptoms of any COVID-19 varients.