Many Americans Feel Coronavirus Whiplash with Omicron Variant Upending Daily Life Again

Katie Lucey administers a COVID-19 test on her son Maguire at a PCR and Rapid Antigen COVID-19 coronavirus test pop up on Wall Street in New York on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. The new omicron coronavirus mutant speeding around the world may bring another wave of chaos, threatening to further stretch hospital workers already struggling with a surge of delta cases and upend holiday plans for the second year in a row. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

With the omicron variant sending coronavirus cases spiking across the country, the pandemic is once again upending daily life and evoking the early days of the outbreak as scientists race to understand the still-unknown implications of this new type of coronavirus.

The worrying signs suddenly seem everywhere: Professional sports leagues are canceling games. Colleges are sending students home from campus. Secretary of State Antony Blinken cut short his trip to Southeast Asia.

With the number of omicron cases appearing to double every two days, confirmed U.S. coronavirus infections have increased more than 50% in roughly two weeks, rising from 81,900 on Nov. 30 to 124,110 on Dec. 16, according to The Washington Post’s rolling seven-day average.

After a briefing on omicron from his coronavirus response team Thursday, President Joe Biden warned that for unvaccinated Americans, “We are looking at a winter of severe illness and death.” He added, “Omicron is here. It’s going to start to spread much more rapidly at the beginning of the year, and the only real protection is to get your shots.”

Yet some studies suggest that many people only experience mild symptoms from omicron, and vaccine boosters appear to protect against severe illness from the variant, inducing a sort of whiplash for Americans trying to determine how to live their lives and what precautions to take.

What health officials do know is that omicron is already infecting scores of Americans, dealing a psychological blow to an exhausted nation and provoking new policy challenges. The outbreak has been fueled both by omicron, which is spreading at astounding speed, and the older delta variant.

“It’s breathtaking to watch the rate at which everything is increasing right now,” said S. Wesley Long, medical director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist.

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SOURCE: Anchorage Daily News; The Washington Post, Tyler Pager and Dan Diamond

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