New Omicron variant raises concerns for holiday season

A new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, has made its way to at least three states in the United States after its first confirmed case was detected on Nov. 29 from a man who traveled from South Africa back to California. It has also been identified in over 30 countries. The World Health Organization and Biden administration have since classified it as a variant of concern.

Here’s what we know about the Omicron variant so far:

According to a recent New York Times article, “Omicron: What Is Known — and Still Unknown”, as of Thursday, two people in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID due to the variant, both of whom are fully vaccinated.

According to the CDC’s What You Need to Know About Variants, this variant may spread easier than others, including Delta which is the leading COVID-19 variant, regardless of vaccination status. Officials are still unsure about the severity of illness and death of Omicron since the current known number of cases are low. However, COVID vaccines are still effective at preventing deadly illness and hospitalization.

With talk of another possible lock down and further restrictions, as you celebrate with friends and family this holiday season, keep the health of yours and others in mind. Do your part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by taking extra precautions for holiday get-togethers this year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID data tracker, positive COVID cases reported in the United States as of Sunday are at an approximate steady 14% increase rate.

Although there is not much anyone can do to stop people from booking flights or planning holiday parties, there are still plenty of steps that can be taken to make a gathering as safe as possible.

According to California For All’s COVID-19 holiday pandemic health guide, getting vaccinated and encouraging others around them is the best way to protect others.

The guide advises people to keep gatherings small and plan short, outdoor gatherings if their guests are not fully vaccinated. For indoor gatherings, masks can be optional if all guests are fully vaccinated, but should be encouraged when social distancing is not possible or others are unvaccinated or at high risk. Regardless, ventilate the area well by keeping doors and windows open and install air filters if possible.

If you are seeing family and friends whether it is locally or across the country, keep these options in mind and stay informed on positive COVID case rates and guidelines applicable to your county or local area.

You can use apps like CA Notify that send alerts to your phone if you were in close contact with someone who tested positive while also maintaining anonymity of the person.

And of course, get tested if you are experiencing COVID symptoms and stay home if you are sick.

Keep yourself and your guests safe this holiday season. Take extra COVID precautions and explore all possible options for having safe get-togethers.

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Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the Campus Times Editorial Board.

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