Coronavirus Watch

Scientists Expect Worrisome Omicron Variants

A recent AP News headline reads Expect more worrisome variants after omicron, referring to scientists’ warning that “omicron’s whirlwind advance practically ensures it won’t be the last version of the coronavirus to worry the world.” The general logic appears that every infection provides the virus (Omicron) to multiply and mutate.

Every infection provides a chance for the virus to mutate, and omicron has an edge over its predecessors: It spreads way faster despite emerging on a planet with a stronger patchwork of immunity from vaccines and prior illness.

– AP news

The Axios has put together following highlights from the AP News article:

Axios: Expect more Omicron variant
  • Why it matters: The warnings come as there’s no guarantee that subsequent variants “will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them,” underscoring the need for widespread vaccination.
    • The chance of the virus mutating increases with every infection, raising concerns as the highly contagious Omicron variant rapidly spreads, per AP.
  • Between the lines: It’s not clear what subsequent variants might look like or how they may impact the pandemic, experts caution.
  • What they’re saying: “The faster Omicron spreads, the more opportunities there are for mutation, potentially leading to more variants,” Leonardo Martinez, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Boston University, told AP.
    • “It’s the longer, persistent infections that seem to be the most likely breeding grounds for new variants,” Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said, per AP.
    • “It’s only when you have very widespread infection that you’re going to provide the opportunity for that to occur.”
  • The big picture: Preliminary research suggests that the highly contagious Omicron variant is more resistant to prior coronavirus infection than with other variants, Axios’ Caitlin Owens reports.
    • Initial studies also have found that coronavirus vaccines — particularly without a booster shot — are less effective against Omicron infections than other variants, although they appear to hold up well against severe disease.
    • The World Health Organization reported nearly 20 million new COVID-19 cases over the last seven days.

Source: Adapted in verbatim from Axios article.

The Atlantic‘s Katherine Wu writes that the worst wave of Omicron is still coming. “What we can say is that the higher a wave crests, the longer and more confusing the path to the bottom will be. We need to prepare for the possibility that this wave could have an uncomfortably long tail—or at least a crooked one.”

The start of a decline is not sufficient to think we’re out of the woods.

– Shweta Bansal, an infectious-disease modeler at Georgetown University (source: The Atlantic)

Quoting Maia Majumder, a computational epidemiologist at Harvard, Katherine writes “What lies beyond the peak isn’t out of our control either. The decline can be sped up by the same mitigation behaviors that temper the rise”.

Coronavirus-19 vaccination watch

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID vaccination tracker page (as of Jan 21, 9 a.m.) 657,122,745 doses have been distributed and 532,850,229 doses administered. According MDH COVID-19 Response vaccine data (as of Jan 19) a total of 9,081,646 doses of Covid-19 (Pfizer & Moderna) vaccines have been administered in Minnesota. According to the MDH latest tally (as of Jan 21) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 1,216,734 (out of 17,486,321 tested) with 11,151 deaths.