The State of the Omicron Variant
By: FRANCIS CAIN / CONTRIBUTING WRITER
In the fall of 2020, many colleges prepared for a potential rise in coronavirus cases after the thanksgiving holiday.
As students, staff and faculty prepared to travel near and far to spend the holiday with family and friends, many colleges took precautionary measures by going fully remote after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Although many students returned to campus in the spring of this year, it was later required by the university’s administration that students show proof of vaccination for in-person instruction starting this past fall.
With the new Omicron variant on the rise, and students, staff and faculty preparing to travel for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday; are we prepared to take precautionary measures upon return for the spring 2022 semester?
Is The Omicron Variant a Threat?
As scientists begin to do their research and experiment for data, many people question how serious this new virus is. For many, the Omicron is a reason for extreme concern while others are less affected. Regardless of your views on Omicron, It is said that the new variant first must prove it can spread faster than the Delta variant.
Microbiologist Pei-Yong Shi who studied all variants of the coronavirus stated, “I think there is a lot of overreaction, and we just have to sit tight. There are no results yet, these are just the mutations.”
In a recent Washington Post article, John Mascola, Director of the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center stated, “We’re in a position of gathering data. The virus has proved to us that it has an uncanny ability to evolve rapidly and it has the ability to change in a way that dramatically changes the variant that is predominant in the world.”
This has caused many college officials to wonder what will happen with the variant during the winter break, and what should be the next step for the spring semester.
“We are concerned. So many questions are coming up because of this. We are not out of the woods yet,” said Geraldine Taylor, co-Chair of American College Health Association COVID task force.
Since students have returned from the Thanksgiving break, it was reported that cases have increased in places such at the University of Maryland.
Officials urged students, staff and faculty to wear K-N95 masks and get a booster shot. They were also advised to get tested and stay home if they are not well and to reconsider international travels.
Officials at Yale University also changed their coronavirus advisories, as infection increased on-campus and in their community. Officials added increased testing requirements and asked students to avoid nonessential travel for the rest of the semester.
President Biden took immediate action in restricting travels from the most impacted countries to the US, when the World Health Organization named the Omicron variant a “variant of concern.”
The President also decided that travel restrictions are necessary to give the U.S. time to learn more about this variant and prepare.
With over 60 percent of Americans vaccinated, boosters authorized and available, and vaccines authorized for children ages 5 and over, Americans are utilizing the tools they have to remain safe until the Omicron variant data confirms a state of emergency.
On Dec. 2, President Biden addressed new actions to protect Americans against the Delta and Omicron variant, from the White House Briefing Room.
“Today’s actions will ensure we are using these tools as effectively as possible to protect the American people against this variant and to continue to battle the Delta variant during the winter months when viruses tend to thrive,” he said. “These actions will help keep our economy growing and keep Americans safe from severe COVID.”
What Does This Mean for the Future?
As the omicron variant rises to the surface, a sense of uncertainty heightens the concerns of many although experts such as Anthony Fauci do not think it will be necessary to receive a Omicron-specific booster shot.
Prof. Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London stated, “We’re questioning whether chasing the globe to hunt down the next variant to tweak the vaccine again and again is necessarily the best way of going.”
It is very much possible that the future of SARS-CoV-2 can be placed under control by human hands by choosing to get vaccinated and remaining educated on this deadly virus in order to decrease our numbers and stop the spread.