New COVID-19 variant discovered

Josh Haefner and Andrea Munoz

A new COVID-19 variant called Omicron was recently discovered, bringing up case numbers and causing some countries, including the US to bring back long-absent travel restrictions.

The Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa and has currently spread to 14 countries including the United States.

“The Omicron Variant is a highly transmissible variant, it is new, and a lot is still unknown about it. More countries are reporting cases every day which means it is spreading fast,” said Nurse Carmen Vela.

A few countries have already imposed travel restrictions such as Europe not letting in South Africans, and the USA bringing back restrictions that were in place earlier in the pandemic.

“This variant affects traveling because there is already an increased number of countries that have started traveling measures where either they don’t allow international travelers or travelers must show their Covid vaccination card to enter the country. Traveling especially in the holidays increased the risk of contracting this new variant,” Vela said.

Some countries, such as Israel, have banned all travelers from entry to delay the spread of Omicron.

The variant has the potential to affect both unvaccinated and vaccinated people due to it being more contagious than Delta and other strains of the virus.

“Being fully vaccinated gives you between 90-94% antibodies protection for about 8 months. After 8 months that protection drops to about 30%,” Vela said.

There is an abundant amount of unknown information pending about the virus, but what scientists know is that the mutant has a “spike protein” which makes it more difficult for the vaccine to prevent infection. President Joe Biden said that it can be two weeks until the CDC finds out more about the variant.

“I don’t think this wave will hit harder because we have thousands of people already vaccinated to protect themselves, again we must continue safe practices of being fully vaccinated, wearing masks, and social distancing,” Vela said.

The two most effective vaccine companies Pfizer and Modena have already been working on new boosters for the Omicron variant.

“Receiving the booster will bring back your immunity to 94% which gives you longer protection especially to these new variants,” Vela said.

The world has already experienced 564,626 cases along with 6,997 deaths within the span of two weeks. The United States experienced 83,365 cases along with 961 deaths according to New York Times.

“A lot is still unknown about this variant plus there will always be new variants on all viruses,” Vela said.

More information about the Omicron variant will become available as scientists continue their research.