New COVID-19 Variant Spreads Quickly


President Hurley posted this vaccine booster photo on Jan. 18.

The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, formally classified as Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant, has been on the radar since its first detection on November 11, 2021 in Botswana.

The variant was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Nov. 24.

The WHO then classified Omicron as a “Variant of Concern” (VOC) on Nov. 26. The United States followed suit and also classified it as a VOC on Nov. 31. Omicron was first detected in the U.S. on Dec. 20, with a total of 63,937,935 cases of the variant since its first detection.

According to the WHO, Omicron spreads more rapidly than any of the prior variants of COVID-19. Both the WHO and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have reported that Omicron can infect people who have immunity to the virus by vaccination or previous infection. This is called “immune evasion,” it means that anyone can still become sick even if they have already had COVID-19 or have received the vaccine. 

While anyone can still get sick with Omicron despite being vaccinated for COVID-19, the WHO and CDC state that those who are vaccinated may be less likely to have severe illness that could lead to hospitalization, or in more serious cases, death. They also state that “breakthrough infections”, when a vaccinated person does become severely ill or hospitalized, is likely to occur without the vaccination. 

The CDC has reported that, in general, those who are vaccinated or have been previously infected have milder cases of Omicron. 

While Omicron has similar symptoms to the previous strains, there are a few key differences to note.

According to Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and vaccinologist at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in North Carolina, the most common symptoms for Omicron are a sore throat, congestion, runny nose, headache, fatigue and a cough. Fortunately, a loss of taste and smell has been reported to be uncommon in Omicron infections.

Recent discoveries from the University of Hong Kong of the effects of Omicron have shown that it does not affect the lungs as severely as previous variants, but may affect the upper respiratory tract, such as the nose and throat.

There has been little research done on Omicron, but according to Yale Medicine, the studies so far have shown that the majority of Omicron variant cases are not nearly as severe as the previous variants.  

The CDC has created guidelines in order to fight Omicron. If one has received the Moderna vaccine, the booster is advised six months after the primary doses. However, the Pfizer booster is said to be needed after five months of primary doses. Finally, the Johnson and Johnson booster is recommended to individuals two months after. 

Since Omicron can affect those who are vaccinated, the CDC recommends wearing a mask in public places regardless of vaccination status, particularly areas that are indoors, poorly ventilated and crowded. 

The second guideline is mask wearing. The CDC has stated that masks can help protect against all the variants. 

The third guideline is testing. There are two different tests available to determine if one is infected. One of these tests is an antigen test along with the nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). An additional test can be done to figure out the variant in which one has contracted. There are also at-home tests that can be purchased that will give results within a few minutes. 

The fourth and final guideline is to stay home if sick. Whether positive for COVID-19 or with another contagious illness, be courteous and self-quarantine. 

The CDC says that those who are positive for COVID-19 need to isolate  for 5 days. 

Research is still ongoing, as the Omicron variant is still vastly unknown. 

For more information about Omicron, visit For more information about WHO, visit