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Omicron variant update from Dr. Bill Chasanov

An Omicron variant update from Bill Chasanov, DO, infectious disease physician and Chief Population Health Officer at Beebe Healthcare:

Over the last few days, there have been many news reports and discussions about a new variant of COVID-19 known as B.1.1.529 or the Omicron variant. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently named this variant a “variant of concern.”

There are many who are investigating this COVID-19 variant as it has several changes (known as mutations) that makes it different. As more information comes out, I will do my best to keep our community updated. 

Here is what we know:

  • The United States (along with several other countries) have placed travel restrictions to several southern African countries, including South Africa.
  • This COVID-19 variant has mutations around the part of the virus (known as the spike protein) where our current vaccines work.
  • There has not been an Omicron COVID-19 variant identified in the United States as of Nov. 30, but this variant has been seen in Canada and several other countries. News reports from Dec. 1 afternoon did report a case in the United States. 

What we do NOT know:

  • Is this COVID-19 variant (Omicron) more deadly?
  • Is this COVID-19 variant (Omicron) more easily transmitted from one person to another?
  • How effective are our current vaccinations against this COVID-19 variant (Omicron)?

What can you do to stay safe?

  • Continue to watch & read news from reliable sources. 
  • If you are eligible: obtain a COVID-19 vaccine and/or booster
  • Wear a mask in crowded public settings
  • Receive your influenza vaccine if you are eligible and have not received.