Omicron on the rise

Ila Prabhuram

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Omicron on the rise

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic was seemingly coming to an end, Omicron, a new variant of the Coronavirus, emerged and is now causing a global resurgence in cases, infecting over one million Americans alone since the holiday season.  

“This is hitting us at a very inopportune time,” Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and vaccinologist at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in N.C., said. 

Viruses are constantly undergoing changes and mutations, sometimes producing new variants, and Omicron is an example of this; however, this new version spreads far more easily than the original COVID-19 virus. While much still remains unknown about Omicron, evidence suggests symptoms resemble that of a common cold, and the loss of taste or smell is uncommon—unlike previous variants.  

“It is clear that if you are vaccinated, particularly if you have had a booster, Omicron tends to produce milder infections,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., said. 

The impact of Omicron has been enormous, with businesses and the stock market being especially affected. Investors are growing more concerned over how the strain will affect the economy and the consequences that will follow it. The ongoing labor shortage has forced many companies to resort to new ways to recruit more employees. 

“I never thought I would see McDonald’s stores offering signing bonuses,” Catherine Collinson, chief executive at the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, said.  

Omicron has also had a disastrous effect on schools across America. With a significant spike in child hospitalizations due to the virus and severe staffing shortages, 4,561 school districts have been forced to shift to virtual learning. Although the Cherokee County School District continues to support in-person learning, students are advised to wear a mask and social distance. School closures have contributed to the ongoing mental health crisis and learning loss among students nationwide. 

“School closures have affected mental health because it forced some students to isolate themselves. Some of the students may only have social interactions through school, so the closing really endangers their mental health,” Alicia Isenberg, junior, said.  

As cases continue to rise, make sure to follow the CDC recommended guidelines, and stay safe.