Omnicron: What Do We Know About the New COVID Variant?


Claire Fox

Photo of an at home COVID test, taken on Dec. 5, 2021.

Claire Fox, Staff Writer

Now that it’s December 2021, COVID has been around for almost two years, with all sorts of variants, such as the Delta variant, Gamma, and Beta. But now, there’s also the Omicron variant, which was first found in western Europe early this past November. The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated it as a variant of concern.

People are still unsure of how exactly Omicron behaves in comparison to previous variants, but as of Nov. 28, the WHO stated that vaccines still seem to be protective against severe cases and death. Additionally, PCR tests (the common nasal swab tests) still appear to be effective in detecting Omicron, and corticosteroids and IL6 receptor blockers still work in treating severe cases. 

With all of this uncertainty, it can be difficult for people to understand how Omicron could impact State College. SCASD Board of Directors President Amber Concepcion expressed her concern about the Omicron variant. 

“I’ve seen in regard to how quickly cases are growing with Omicron, it appears that Omicron potentially spreads faster than the Delta variant,” Concepcion said. “Knowing that, I’m definitely concerned about the extent to which it could impact our community.” 

But what is actually known about how fast Omicron spreads? Information from the CDC shows that the Omicron variant spreads significantly faster than the Delta variant, which makes it that much more of a threat to our community. 

With the upcoming winter break and the fact that Omicron has been shown to spread faster, it’s possible that Omicron could come to State College sooner than anticipated. During winter break, people will likely travel, and there’s no way to know what could be brought back to State College. Concepcion expressed her concerns about the potential presence of Omnicron in State College, and the precautions she hopes families will take. 

“We’ve already seen a rise in cases after the thanksgiving holiday,” Concepcion said. “Hopefully, as more students get vaccinated, that should help. And […] the fact that 5-11 year olds will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated before break, I certainly hope parents will take advantage of that.”

In a statement issued on Nov. 26, President Biden urged everyone to get vaccinated. Concepcion shared this sentiment and urges community members to get vaccinated.

“We need to encourage everyone to get their vaccinations if they haven’t yet, and we need to encourage people who are eligible for boosters to get their boosters,” Concepcion said. “It seems pretty clear that getting a booster is clearly one of the things people can be doing to help protect themselves from Omicron.”

When it comes to Omicron, there’s a lot that still remains unclear. With break coming up, the best bet to stay safe is to continue adhering to COVID precautions. If you feel sick, get tested. At-home COVID tests can be found in various pharmacies like CVS and Walmart.