What’s Up With Covid Variants?

How does the Omicron variant change things?


Palm Beach County School District

Graph showing the humber of COVID-19 cases across the Palm Beach County School District.

Daniel McGlone, Editor-in-Chief

First identified in South Africa in late November, 2021, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has since made its way to the rest of the world. Now, the Omicron variant makes up 95% of reported COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC.

“Breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are expected, but vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death,” claims the CDC. The CDC claims that the Omicron variant may spread more easily than the previous Delta variant, but vaccines are still effective in preventing severe illness or hospitalizations.

In Florida, the response to the Omicron variant has been little. Unlike states like California and New York which have reimposed both outdoor and indoor mask mandates, Gov. Ron DeSantis has stayed firm against lockdowns and mandates.

“We are not in Florida going to allow any media-driven hysteria to do anything to infringe people’s individual freedoms when it comes to any type of COVID variants,” DeSantis said, according to NPR.

Early studies of the Omicron variant show it as less severe than the previous dominant variant, the Delta variant, but more contagious. One study found that the risk of hospitalization or even death is 65% lower in those who have the Omicron variant as compared to the Delta variant, according to CNBC. To continue, another study found that 14% of Delta variant cases resulted in hospitalization, while only 5% of Omicron cases currently do, again according to CNBC.

White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci stated, “Multiple sources of now-preliminary data indicate a decrease severity with omicron. However, we really do need more definitive assessment of severity with longer-term follow up here and in different countries,” in a COVID update from the White House Response Team.

According to the Palm Beach County COVID-19 Dashboard, across the Palm Beach County School District, the amount of students and employees infected by COVID shot up in late December. Before the start of winter break, the number of cases stood at 226, while the number of daily cases was averaging under 50 before Dec. 17.

“It is surprising how contagious it is and I’ve seen a lot of students missing because of it,” Senior Johnathan Jacques stated.

The supposed decreased severity of the Omicron variant is a source of hope in most, but safety precautions should still be taken to prevent the spread of the variant.