The Omicron Variant: What, Where, Why, and How?

Margo Limmer, Staff Writer

As of November 26th, 2021, there has been a public release of information regarding the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron. The name Omicron comes from the Greek lettering system, where we got the name ‘Delta’ for the Delta variant as well. The official press releases from the CDC consisted of a few interesting things, which will be broken down in this article, as well as a general introduction to COVID-19 virology in the context of Omicron. You can read the press release for yourself here.  

The CDC’s official press release regarding Omicron is consistent with other press releases when a new variant has been discovered; the CDC announced they have more to discover. What they do know is that the variant’s official origin is in South Africa and that the South African government and scientific researchers are actively cooperating with the American Disease Control authorities. Not only is this statement a sign of diplomacy, but it is also a slight to the way that the Chinese government and disease authorities withheld information from the public in December of 2019. 

The next press release was on December 1st, 2021, where the CDC officially confirmed the first case of COVID-19 that was caused by the Omicron Variant in the United States. In the release, they stated that the Omicron variant had been identified from an individual who traveled back from South Africa on November 22, 2021. The variant was discovered in this individual by genome sequencing at the University of California, San Francisco. There is nothing else that stands out in this article, it seems to be informative to the degree that they have information. You can read this press release here. 

Of course, when there is a new COVID-19 variant, the first instinct of many people is to panic. While this is completely natural, it must be contained to some degree due to the absolute necessity to keep the public under control. Virology 101 says that a variant of a disease will not get worse by itself, only if it re-mutates and creates a new variant. The recorded symptoms of the Omicron variant have consistently been very mild, consisting of a dry cough, chills, fever, body aches, and night sweats. 

The real moral of the story here is that Omicron is not the big new variant the media is making it out to be. Recorded symptoms have shown that it has been consistently less severe, though it has been more contagious. The lesser symptoms do not mitigate the need for appropriate prevention strategies, like social distancing and face coverings. While Omicron could be considered not a huge threat to the US, it just goes to show that this Pandemic is not over and we should continue taking our safety, as well as everyone else’s around us seriously.