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Omicron: What You Need to Know | Maxine Mah

Currently, life seems pretty normal.


We go to school everyday, come home, do our extracurriculars, meet with friends, finish homework at 1 A.M., and go to bed at the end of the day, only to wake up and do it all over again. While most of us have gotten into a solid school routine, it seems as though we also seem to forget one crucial thing: COVID-19 still exists.


We go to school everyday with masks on, we come home and rip our masks off as soon as we enter the door, we do our extracurriculars with safety precautions still in mind, and when we meet with friends we have to make sure to bring a mask with us. This is our normal, and while the impending threat of COVID has lessened — especially with most people being double vaccinated — there are still many different types of variants circulating the news. Delta, Alpha, and Gamma have made our hearts race a little faster, but aside from that, they don’t seem to have a major effect on our daily lives. This renders them unthreatening and thus irrelevant — to us at least.


However, you may have seen a new Greek letter in the news lately: Omicron. And now, people are starting to worry.


According to U.S. News, the Omicron variant started in South Africa and was verified by the World Health Organization as a “highly transmissible variant of concern, though its actual risks are not yet understood.” This means that this variant of COVID is way more contagious than all other previously understood forms. However, its symptoms have not been as dangerous as the original Coronavirus variant.


So, why is everyone worrying? Omicron seems like just another variant of COVID, and we pushed Delta off like it was no deal. Why do we need to worry specifically about this one rather than the others? This question can be easily answered with vaccines. Moderna’s CEO says that the vaccine will be much less effective against the new variant, meaning that most vaccinated people are not protected from this highly contagious variant.


In light of this news, the Biden Administration has pushed for stricter travel restrictions for those entering the U.S.: “As part of an enhanced winter covid strategy Biden is expected to announce Thursday, U.S. officials would require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure.” Furthermore, there is even a proposal to have American citizens coming back to the U.S. to quarantine for seven days, even if testing negative for COVID. Those who flout the requirements will be subject to fines or other punishments, which would be the first time penalties would be linked to COVID testing.


While Delta may have seemed like just a bump in the road, we should all be more careful going through our daily routines. Omicron could potentially be the reason for schools to be shut down again, or it could turn out just like the other COVID variants. Regardless, we cannot forget about the current state of Coronavirus, as we never know what new forms can spring up.


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