By now, everyone (besides Big Pharma executives) is ready for Covid to end. Since scientists first detected it in early 2020, COVID-19 has affected more than 300 million people worldwide, revealing glaring gaps in healthcare systems and permanently changing the way we go about our daily lives.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of Covid is that it seems never-ending; each time numbers appear to trend downward, a new variant rises to grab the baton. And, for the past month, the latest viral superstar has been Omicron.
After first appearing in South Africa in November, Omicron has become the dominant variant in many parts of the world — including the U.S. But while we all need to remain as cautious as ever, there are some good aspects of the new variant.
Read on to learn about the good and the bad of Omicron.
The good: Omicron is milder
While Omicron is still dangerous (especially to the unvaccinated), the good news is that it’s much milder than past variants. Data from around the world shows that people infected have between a 30-70% lower chance of ending up in the hospital than those with Delta or other past variants.
That said, high levels of cases can still overwhelm hospitals, which is why mask-wearing and social distancing are still recommended.
The bad: It’s more transmissive
Omicron might be milder than past variants, but it’s also much more transmissive. The U.S. currently has a seven-day average of almost 1 million cases per day — far more than at any other time during the pandemic.
This is a byproduct of viral mutation; viruses are always trying to jump from one body to another as fast as possible. While they might succeed in doing so (as Omicron has), it also causes them to become less severe, as mentioned.
The good: Vaccine and anti-viral medication advances
The world has come a long way since the start of the pandemic. Scientists now have a much better understanding of COVID-19 and coronaviruses, in general. Much of the world is now vaccinated, and many countries are now rolling out booster shots to help extend viral resistance.
Besides vaccines, Pfizer and other companies now offer anti-viral pills, which can further reduce the severity of the disease in certain patients.
The bad: Omicron is more vaccine-resistant
While many of us are now vaccinated (and even boosted), research shows that Omicron is more vaccine-resistant than past variants.
It’s clear that being vaccinated helps prevent severe infection and can still help you from getting the virus. However, your chances of getting Omicron after being boosted are higher than when other variants raged in the past. Because of that, continuing to follow social distancing guidelines is a must — at least until another booster comes out or we reach the endemic stage of the pandemic.
The good: We’ve done this before
It’s been around two years since Covid first reached epidemic proportions in China and just short of two years since it spread across the world at an unprecedented rate. While that may not seem like a positive, the good news is there: we’ve done this before.
By now, we know what it takes to curb the spread of the virus: get vaccinated, wear a mask, keep your distance from others, and isolate yourself if you experience any symptoms. Omicron might be more transmissive than past variants, but by following the preventative guidelines we’ve learned over the past 24 months, we can help ensure that it’s also the final variant.