Written by Devon Mitchell
Last week, scientists discovered a new COVID variant in Botswana. The Omicron variant, since its first discovery, has been identified in numerous countries including Italy, Germany, the UK, Hong Kong, Israel, and South Africa among others.
The World Health Organization stated that Omicron is a “variant of concern” containing multiple mutations which makes it different from previous variants. Many of the mutations are in the spike protein, the protein which antibodies created by the immune system target to fight infection. These mutations lead scientists to believe that the vaccine is not as effective against Omicron. Additionally, it is believed the new variant could be more transmissible, meaning it’s more contagious. Scientists are still uncertain if Omicron is more virulent than other variants. There is much that is still unknown about the variant and its mutations.
Many nations are taking early precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus in light of the new variant. Many countries across the world are restricting travel to and from countries with cases. Israel has closed its borders all together. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a mask mandate would be in place and all foreign travelers are required to take a PCR test upon arrival and self-isolate for ten days regardless of vaccination status should they test positive.
In the US, New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency. Over the past few weeks, New York state has seen a rise in COVID cases, specifically in upstate New York. Additionally, the new threat of Omicron has led leaders like Hochul to take early precaution. The new variant has made it to the US. A California resident who had recently traveled to South Africa before the discovery of the new variant, began experiencing symptoms during Thanksgiving. So far no one who was exposed has tested positive.
It is important to reiterate that there is still little known about the Omicron variant as to prevent panic. International and domestic leaders are under a lot of pressure to make the right decision for their people in order to be proactive rather than reactive. It is still important to follow WHO and CDC guidelines. Get vaccinated, get your booster, wear a mask in public, and remember to wash your hands often. Stay strong Maroons.