Omicron variant on the rise

By Evelin Lopez Gutierrez

Editorials Editor

As the new year progresses, 2022 continues to bring surprises. 

We came into the new year with a new variant of COVID called Omicron. This new variant leaves many with unanswered questions as we compare it to the Delta variant. 

 According to the CDC, the first variant of Omicron was reported in South Africa in early November of 2021. It began to drive rapid epidemic growth, and quickly reached the U.S. By December 25th, the CDC released data that predicted Omicron to become the most common variant in the nation. Many citizens had questions on how this variant grew so rapidly, and the CDC believes the spread of Omicron is a result of increased transmissibility and the large number of people being unvaccinated.

 The early data released by the CDC suggested that Omicron might be less severe than past variants, but the lack of information on this new variant makes the data unreliable, according to the CDC.

 An official statement on the CDC’s website states that there isn’t enough data present to predict how severe Omicron is. As of right now, we have little information on the variant. 

However, one thing is clear: Omicron is spreading around and it’s spreading around much more quickly than many predicted. So, how can you as a member of the community contribute to the decrease of Omicron cases?

 Official CDC guidelines recommend everyone 5 years or older get fully vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines have been scientifically proven to be highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. The CDC also recommends everyone aged 16 or older get a booster shot after a COVID-19 vaccination at least 5 months prior. Individuals aged 16-17 are only eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.  

These suggestions are only a small part of what you as a community member can do to prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant along with the Delta variant. The CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission, regardless of vaccination status. 

New studies show that cloth masks might not be as protective as wearing a surgical mask. Cloth masks still allow some viral particles to enter through the cloth, and now with the highly contagious Omicron variant spreading, we must change the type of masks we wear. You can help by doing something as small as changing the kinds of masks you wear. A proper cloth mask will properly cover the nose and mouth to prevent leaks, have a flexible nose wire that fits snugly on the face, and has multiple layers of tight woven and breathable fabric. It is highly suggested that when using a surgical or disposable mask, you replace it after it’s been used. Wet and dirty material will not make for an effective mask, regardless of how well it fits. 

The Biden administration announced on January 12 that it would distribute millions of free coronavirus tests across the United States, hoping to keep schools open. There have been many recent debates in the U.S as people argue over whether schools should remain in person. The Lee’s Summit and Independence school district recently brought back the mask mandate, and the schoolboard administration has said that as of right now it is to remain in place until February 3. 

As for the Blue Springs school district, there were 271 new cases of COVID among students and staff members in the week of January 10-14 alone. Also in that week, there were 468 students and staff quarantined. The district has discussed going virtual due to an increase in quarantined teachers, and a decliine in available substitutes. There has not been a mask mandate put in place for the district yet, but not much is known for the district’s plans as more and more staff members and bus drivers are quarantined or fall ill.

As we face COVID and its variants, the outcomes are unpredictable. Take care of your loved ones during this rough time and protect them from illness. You as an individual can help us take one more step towards preventing the spread of sickness and help out others that are struggling.