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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Omicron vs. delta | What we know so far

Omicron could become the new dominant variant, but we don’t know much about it yet.

MINNEAPOLIS — What’s a good measure of how things are going? The stock market! 

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average at a two week high, it seems like investors have already made up their minds.

Sure, it’s not the major variant of concern right now. That’s actually still delta, according to Dr. John O’Horo from the Mayo Clinic.

“Although we continue to follow this Omicron story very carefully, the ongoing threat and the thing bringing people into the hospitals is delta,” Dr. O’Horo said.

But there are three things to watch for when it comes to omicron.

  1. Transmissibility
  2. Immune Escape
  3. Severity

In terms of transmissibility…

“There continues to be some evidence that it may be more transmissible, but that evidence is not terribly strong yet,” Dr. O’Horo said. “As far as immune escape goes, I’ve gotten an initial report out of South Africa showing a higher rate of reinfections from natural immunity, indicating that people who have been previously infected may increase susceptibility to omicron. We don’t know if that transmits to increased vaccine susceptibility which remains one of the big unknowns. We’re waiting for more research and data.”

Lastly, for severity, this is where it seems like people are making conclusions about the variant.

“There really hasn’t been anything that’s emerged that it is more severe at this point,” O’Horo said. “However, it’s still early so we’re waiting for more indicators on things like hospitalizations and oxygenation use. And although I’d like to say I’m encouraged we haven’t heard any bad news on this, it’s still very early.”

He added that it might be a short while before we get more answers on the new variant. 

“In the next week to two weeks we should still have some solid answers, expecting some answers from the neutralization studies to tell us about vaccine efficacy, the week after next from the major manufacturers, and that will help us answer one of those main questions,” he said.

Variants aside, our toolbox remains invariable. Vaccinations, masking and testing all remain pillars.

Specifically, testing caught a glimpse of the spotlight yesterday, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki dishing sass at the question of making testing free for all Americans.

A reporter asked her why not make tests free and give them out to Americans. She responded sarcastically, “should we jus send one to every American?”

She followed up by saying, “We share the same incentive to make them less expensive and more accessible.”

Meanwhile, testing still remains important, especially with the Holidays coming up.

“Testing does remain an important tool we continue to have,” O’Horo said. “Testing is something that’s not effected by omicron. It comes up with the variant — will this evade some of our testing — and there is nothing to suggest that it will, and we have every reason to think that tests will work just as well.”

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