Omicron variant concern rises

As the world enters into 2022, there is one thing not being left behind: COVID concern. The end of the pandemic is still not within sight, especially with growing concern over the Omicron variant of the virus that has shown up within the last few weeks.

It was first identified in South Africa and Botswana at the beginning of November. The first case in the U.S. was on November 22 who had been traveling back to San Francisco from South Africa. The second case was by a man who had come in contact at a conference. Since then, over a dozen states have reported cases, including Minnesota. As well, there is an expectation of more states reporting cases in the next few coming days and weeks. Especially with the increase in travel that comes with the holiday season.

The uncertainty stemming from the virus comes from the worry that even people who have received the vaccine are more susceptible to getting it. As well as its transmissibility; COVID and its Delta variant are already extremely fast-moving, so there is concern as to how this new variant will act. Although, there is no official evidence to say this is true or not. With that, other countries, such as Japan and Morocco have either put a more strict ban on travel to and from Southern African countries or have completely banned it. The U.S. has not changed its policy on international travel from these countries since news of the Omicron variant broke.

Because of how new the Omicron variant is, there is no evidence as to whether or not it is more dangerous than the Delta variant of the coronavirus. There is still a higher rate of Delta cases than Omicron as of now.

Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that of the 90,000 to 100,000 cases per day, 99.9 percent of them are of the Delta variant. Officials at the CDC are advising people to continue to proceed with caution. They are also continuing to push for those not vaccinated yet to get vaccinated, and for individuals with the vaccine, to get a booster shot. The COVID-19 vaccine is still free and is available at many clinics and pharmacies. Furthermore, the eligibility has opened up to get a booster recently; there is now an ability for anyone eighteen and older to get their booster shot.

Although there has been detection of the Omicron variant in Minnesota, Concordia has not seen a spike in cases or any news on possible Omicron cases. The college is still requiring masks in all indoor spaces and has continued to monitor cases with students and faculty. Moreover, they are requiring all students and staff to be vaccinated by the beginning of spring semester. While this has been set in place since the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, it is more imperative than ever with news of the Omicron variant. While there is no news as to whether or not the mask mandate will change with a new semester, because of the continued concern surrounding the new variant, it can be assumed that there will be no change. With that being said, Minnesota and North Dakota have not changed their masking policies at the state level since news of the new variant. There is not any talk of changing the policies either. Both states do not require masks in all indoor spaces and have left it up to individual businesses to come up with policies based on what they feel comfortable with.

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