Scientists monitor new COVID-19 Omicron variant

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Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

For nearly two years, the world has fought to stop COVID-19. The deadly pandemic has rampaged throughout the world, leaving millions dead and changing life forever for practically everyone. As the world approaches the second anniversary of the first reported case, the war against COVID-19 is still raging on.

While millions spent their weekends giving thanks, disturbing news surfaced regarding the pandemic – notably, the discovery of a new mutated strain of the virus. The Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa and spread to neighboring countries – and in some cases – across continents. 

Preliminary research shows a higher chance of reinfection compared to other variants in the new variant. Omicron has an estimated 30 mutations on the spike protein. The spike protein is the area of the virus that allows for the virus to enter our system – in other words, how transmittable the virus is. The fear is that increased mutations found in the spike protein of the Omicron variant will create the most transmittable version of COVID-19 yet to be seen. 

It is still too early to tell if the virus will be more transmittable and deadlier compared to the Delta and Alpha variants. How the current vaccines will combat the new variant is still unknown. Some experts are confident that the current vaccines and boosters are robust enough to fight the new variant. Others have alluded to having to create a specific vaccine to fight the mutated variant. Moderna, one of the three American vaccine manufacturers, announced on Nov. 28 that they could have a vaccine for the Omicron variant in early 2022.

On Nov. 29 President Joe Biden gave a speech in response to the new variant. Biden called the new variant an area of concern but not of panic. This is in the wake of the U.S. issuing travel restrictions on the following countries based on the recommendation of the CDC: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. He claimed that the U.S. would fight the new variant with widespread vaccinations, booster shots and testing. Biden reinforced the stance that lockdowns would not be returning to the U.S. 

“If people are vaccinated and wear their mask, there’s no need for lockdown …” said Biden.

As of Dec. 9, 23 states have a confirmed case of the variant. Missouri is one of those states. However, the new variant is far from being the dominant strain within the U.S. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky believes that over 99% of the cases in the U.S. today are still the Delta variant. The 7 day average for new cases is over 100,000 a day and health officials are uncertain of the impact of two possible infectious strains being prevalent in the U.S. 

Until the world knows more about the latest form of COVID-19 there will be much speculation. The World Health Organization (WHO) has begun to coordinate studies on the new variant hoping for greater clarity on what exactly it is and what we should expect as the cold months set in. 

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