The covid omicron variant may cause milder symptoms, but that’s still unknown

President Biden's remarks on the omicron variant. Kamala Harris and Dr. Fauci are seen in the background
Late last week, the covid variant which was first identified in South Africa was named omicron by the World Health Organization and declared a “variant of concern.” It has dozens more mutations on the spike protein and researchers worry that it will be more transmissible than the delta variant. They have since identified cases in multiple countries however it’s still unknown if it’s more transmissible, if it causes more severe cases and how well the current vaccines and previous infections protect against it.

I was going to quote reports out of South Africa and Europe claiming that people infected with the omicron variant are having milder symptoms than typical covid, but I read up on that. Many outlets state that the South African doctor who said this had her comments taken out of context. She also warned that cases would be worse in older and in unvaccinated people. Plus long covid is a concern even with mild infections. Hospitalizations are rising in the area of South Africa with the omicron variant. It seems like they just don’t have a handle yet on how dangerous this is.

USA Today has a good explainer on what is known so far about omicron. I’m just going to quote a small section of it and recommend you read the full article for more.

It’s not clear whether infection with omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, WHO said. However, preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa.

It’s also unclear how well the virus evades immunity from previous infection or COVID-19 vaccines to cause a breakthrough infection.

But even with so little information, health experts say people should be watchful.

“Americans should take this variant seriously,” Swann said. “Even if this one turns out to be not as bad as we fear, there will be another one that will.”

[From USA Today]

As Dr. Fauci, President Biden and so many others have recommended the best way to avoid being infected is to get a booster shot and continue to take precautions. I’m boostered and still wear a mask everywhere. In my redneck area I see less than 50% of people indoors wearing masks. It’s stressful to have a cashier who is sniffling and wiping her bare nose with her hand, but all I can do now is protect myself. I set up a hand washing station in my car with soap, a Gatorade bottle full of water and a little towel.

Pfizer said they can have a vaccine available to fight omicron if necessary within 100 days. They say it should take about two weeks to determine if omicron is resistant to current vaccines. That’s so impressive! Also the FDA just voted to authorize a new antiviral prescription pill from Merck to treat covid. it should be available in a few weeks. Several more prescriptions are in the works. We’re much more prepared to fight these variants than we were at the beginning of the pandemic. Hopefully covid will become endemic in the not-too-far future, but it’s hard to tell. The world has shifted and things have changed permanently for those of us who are reality-based.

Update: It turns out that Omicron was in Europe before South Africa, that’s just the first place it was identified.



photos credit: Instar and

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

19 Responses to “The covid omicron variant may cause milder symptoms, but that’s still unknown”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Anne says:

    So can my company stop telling us it’s “almost time” to go back to our open plan office? We’ve been remote working for TWO YEARS, and company performance hasn’t suffered. Let us stay safe, please.

    • Megan2 says:

      My office is the same. They keep saying it’s almost time for us to “get back to normal” and I’m like, no. After two years, this is just normal now; where’s all the empathy and concern for our adjustment to a “new normal” that they had when we all went home? and the only people really excited for the return are the execs who have offices with doors they can close.

      Honestly this pandemic has turned me into a full on socialist.

      • EMF999 says:

        My company has us going back on a part-time basis in early Jan. I am not happy about this at all. Far more productive at home, everyone I work with is in a different part of the country and I honestly don’t feel safe going back. Some of our offices have gone completely open concept with shared hot desks; at least I get an office. I’ve voiced my concerns to senior management but have been told that at my level I need to set an example by going in. My resume might be getting a revamp over the holidays.

        Edited to add: we’ve been told in person work is important for collaboration however, I’ll just be going into the office to attend Zoom meetings that I can do with less distractions at home.

    • K says:

      Amen. God, please catch up with technology and please relinquish threats and control over your employees.

    • Jensies says:

      I just quit my mental health position due to this exact thing. I started this job in March 2020 so I’ve never seen a client in person and have only been online, and my productivity is higher than anyone on the team, but my supervisor is insistent that we see unvaccinated clients in person, for no reason. So I gave notice. This whole thing is really underlining how inflexible employers are, and how little they care about us as employees.

  2. wordnerd says:

    I’m in a town in MI where the cases are currently the highest they’ve ever been — our hospitals are out of ventilators, there are no beds available, they’ve had to bring doctors in from other states to help with the case loads — and yet, my husband and I are usually the only ones masked in the grocery store. It seems to me that the majority of people don’t care unless it kills someone close to them. Otherwise, they act like it’s the common cold.

    • Jan90067 says:

      Sadly, even then, it doesn’t seem to change minds. The families will STILL believe it was something else that killed them. We’ve ALL heard of people, just before getting vented, denying it with what ends up being their dying breaths.

      Our HOA had to put out ANOTHER email/flyer telling everyone REGARDLESS of vaccination status, to WEAR A (GODDAMN* (editorial insert from me!)) MASK when in indoor common areas/elevators, and to tell any service people/visitors to your unit that they MUST wear one as well. I got flipped off by a woman on my floor for asking her to wear a mask; this was a woman who always *seemed* so nice, asking about my dad’s health when I’d see her before.

      It is just insanity.

  3. AppleCart says:

    Until there is data that the vaccines can help against the new variant I am staying home. My office is pushing for holiday events like ice skating. We have one leader with blinders on that just wants the office to go back to normal and people congregate in groups. He scares the F out of me. I can work from home better than in an office.

  4. Case says:

    I hope that this is a more mild variant that ends up becoming the primary one in circulation — that’s scientists have said will happen eventually and seems like something we can coexist normally with, which is great.

    But until we get that data, I hope this is a freaking wake-up call to the people acting like the pandemic has been over all year. To those of us who have been staying cautious and paying attention, this isn’t surprising. But the people who have rushed to “get back to normal” seem shocked and it’s exhausting. This entire year has been far more exhausting than 2020 because of people’s general refusal to accept we still need to take precautions and that maybe getting back to “normal” shouldn’t be the goal.

  5. AmelieOriginal says:

    I am getting my booster today at CVS, which I had already made the appointment a few days before we learned the omicron variant existed. Even if the current vaccines are maybe not as effective against it, it’s better protection than no protection and it’s been almost 8 months since I was vaccinated so I’m not taking chances.

    • lucy2 says:

      Me too! Booster at cvs tonight.
      I’m in NJ where masks were mandated and everyone wore them last winter. Now? No one but store employees, and me. And I’ve already had one terrible cold this season, and my friend’s 2 kids have been sick a bunch since school started. It sucks.

  6. Mich says:

    Covid is a determined mutater and becoming endemic doesn’t mean it has stabilized. It just means it is a constant in a given area or globally. Polio was endemic globally. HIV is endemic. TB is endemic is large parts of the world.

    All I care about is getting to the point where there is reliable treatment. And it is close!

  7. Twin falls says:

    I’m aggravated at the delay in advising everyone to get a booster. It was obviously going to be necessary and now with the new variant it’s a semi-panic to get them where I live. I’m also recovering from a break through Covid case that I brought home to my 7 year old who caught it right after his first vaccine dose. Maybe getting the booster wouldn’t have changed anything but I’ll never know and I’m just tired and frustrated. Thankful that no one ended up in the hospital but our symptoms aren’t gone and it’s all just so maddening.

  8. NotSoSocialB says:

    I got my booster the Saturday before this past; I’m still masking, and don’t plan to stop while this is ongoing.

  9. Emma says:

    It is so disheartening to see people trying to act like everything’s normal… what is going on with people… I just can’t sometimes.

    Sitting in a burning room saying everything is fine, it’s fine…

  10. TiredMomof2 says:

    Exhausted. Living in one of the 10 least vaccinated states. Grateful to be working from home. I always wear a KN95 when I have to go inside anywhere. Sadly, I probably see less than 20% of people around me wearing masks. It’s pretty scary. My son is at a school that requires vaccinations for students, faculty and staff, plus the vax rate in his town is over 90% — so I feel like he is as safe as possible. Have been blown away to realize that family members and friends are not vaccinated.

    • Normades says:

      It is exhausting. My ultra left wing stepdad is “still doing research” and I told my mom we will not visit if that stays the case.

  11. Common sense says:

    Here’s the thing, we were told that the fourth wave would start around December or January here in South Africa. This was before the omicron variant was detected. A rise in infections and hospitalisations could be because of the omicron variant or the delta variant at this point.

  12. K says:

    My god I love President Biden.