Crossfire: Should we be worried about Omicron?

Jimmy McAllister and Sofia Jordao

Omicron is the newest COVID-19 variant that is spreading across the world at substantial rates, but is it something to be worried about?

The simple answer is no, but people should be cautious regardless. Omicron has been contracted by 3.1 million people in the United States alone within the week of January 31.

Omicron is known for its high transmission rates and its unusually low death rates. It is mainly hospitalizing older people and it is incredibly rare that someone who is young and healthy with no prior health problems gets hospitalized.

The reason that Omicron is so contagious yet non-lethal is that Omicron stays in the upper airways of the infected person and not the lungs like other COVID-19 variants.

That is because in the lungs there is a protein called TMPRSS2. This protein helped the former variants gain entry and stick to the lungs, but Omicron does not stick to that protein, easily letting it evade the lungs.

When a virus gets to the lungs it is hypothesized to spread to the rest of the body from there. With Omicron staying in the upper airways it cannot spread to the rest of the body, but it can easily be spread by coughing and sneezing, directly leading to the spread and record-breaking reported cases of Omicron.

With cases that do not end severely, the recipient gains natural immunity from the virus.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that natural immunity is 2.8 times
as effective as the vaccine at preventing hospitalizations and 3.3-4.7 times as effective at preventing COVID transmissions.

Those numbers do not show any need for worry in young healthy people. With the widespread transmission of Omicron, infected individuals are developing natural immunity and they are less likely to contract COVID-19 for a second time or be hospitalized from it after.

Due to this, many young people, such as this Neshaminy student who wishes to remain anonymous, are tired of COVID-19 and want to go back to normal.
“The administration around the world is overreacting to it. The world should not be shutting down over a virus with the lethality of a common cold.”

By Jimmy McAllister

Is Omicron something to worry about?

Yes. While it may seem that we are at the beginning of the end, with rumors being spread that the new variants of the virus are weaker, the science suggests otherwise.

Around the world, cases are rising, with the United States alone seeing 3.1 million cases in the week of January 31.

This uptick in cases can lead to an increased risk of mutations in the virus, which have the potential to be more dangerous than the original virus itself.

The unpredictability is what is troubling; we don’t know how severe or dangerous different variants of the virus will be if it continues to further evolve.

This possibility is extremely concerning because, as of 2021, there are 113,718 senior citizens that live in Bucks County— a little over 18% of the total population that could contract the virus and suffer fatal side effects. And while it may not appear to be a concern for younger people, it certainly is.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released information claiming that there is no current evidence suggesting that Omicron symptoms are different from the other variants and that they are unsure whether or not people infected with Omicron experience more serious side effects than people infected with other variants.

This means that this particular strain of the virus could be worse than what we’ve seen before. With many people still vulnerable and exposed in our area, it’s terrifying to think that COVID-19 cases could spike up again.

The possibility of cases spiking also comes the very real possibility of schools going virtual.

If too many people become infected, which is a possibility now that masking is optional for students, there could be a mass outbreak that could shut
down schools and return us to virtual learning.

Neshaminy student Rhys Argust discussed their concerns with the new Omicron variant and the possibility of returning to digital school.

“I really think that online school could happen. The district eliminated contact tracing, mandated masks, and will never mandate vaccines,” Argust said. “So, yeah, I do think that we could see online school in the future. And honestly, I think that it would be better for everyone’s safety.”

However, there is anecdotal evidence from individuals who have contracted and tested positive for the Omicron variant that report having felt less severe symptoms.

Nevertheless, although Omicron could pose less of a threat than Delta, medical officials still warn that it is still a cause for worry.

By Sofia Jordao