COVID Update: Omicron
The Omicron (B.1.1.529) surge hit the United States harshly for the past two months. Being four times more contagious than the Delta variant, Omicron caused thousands of flights to be canceled, many stranded in the airport, Broadway shows were shut down, and restaurants were closed because employees were just too sick to come to work. In New Mexico, so many teachers were out sick that the National Guard were asked to be substitutes. In the beginning of January, the United States hit one million new COVID cases in a day. While most Omicron cases seemed mild, the sheer number of all those cases led to extreme amounts of hospitalizations and a strain on the healthcare system and society.
The Omicron variant was first identified in late November in South Africa. It led to a very quick rise in cases and increased hospitalizations for the unvaccinated. The Omicron surge led to Israel recommending a 4th shot of the Pfizer vaccine for certain populations. The first confirmed case of Omicron in the United State was December 1, 2021 in California although new research data has revealed Omicron was found in New York wastewater in late November.
The Omicron surge was significant not just because it is another variant that keeps COVID going, but it led to the federal government shipping out free at home rapid tests, offering more quality N95 masks at pharmacies, and the NYC Department of Health offering free delivery of new medication to treat COVID. All things that will be needed, as this surge subsides and new variants are being discovered.