If you’ve followed COVID-19 news at all in late 2021 and early 2022, there’s one word you’re sure to have heard: Omicron. This Variant of Concern (VOC) is highly transmissible—much more so than Delta. And although symptoms are reported to be somewhat milder than Delta, severe illness, hospitalization, and deaths are still occurring. In other words, Omicron is not to be taken lightly, and there is a continued need for vaccines, masking, and proactive COVID-19 testing procedures.
To provide context, the Omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by Botswana and South Africa in mid-November 2021. The variant was identified as a Variant of Concern (VOC) shortly thereafter, and the first confirmed case in the United States was on December 1, 2021.
But where is Omicron, has it peaked, and are new variants coming? Let’s dive in.
Because Omicron is so transmissible, it has since been reported in all 50 states, Washington D.C., the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, Omicron prevalence has taken over in the US, and it became the dominant strain as of late December 2021 — overtaking the Delta variant. How dominant has it become? During the week of January 23, 2022 to January 29, 2022, the CDC estimated that Omicron cases made up 99.9% of all COVID-19 cases in the United States.
However, this percentage does vary from state to state and new Delta cases are still occurring. To look at the most recently available data from the CDC, as of January 2022, the 10 states and territories with the highest percentage of Omicron cases include:
It is important to note that this is looking only at the percentage of COVID-19 cases that are estimated to be Omicron. This in no way reflects the total number of COVID-19 cases in general in states.
As an added complication, Omicron variant details are changing. For example, a new subvariant of the Omicron variant—right now being labeled as BA.2—was detected in January 2022. It is considered slightly more transmissible than the original Omicron variant, and BA.2 has become dominant in countries including Denmark, India, Nepal, Qatar, and the Philippines. However, experts do not currently believe it will be more severe in terms of transmission or symptoms.
In many cases, Omicron cases in US states have peaked and are starting to decrease as of February 2022—especially in cities and states that were hit hard by Omicron early on. However, this is not yet the case for all US states—especially in those states where Omicron hit later. It is best to track whether or not Omicron cases are declining on a state-by-state basis.
With that said, most states, cities, or counties are not in the clear. Community transmission is still quite high in most parts of the United States, according to the CDC. This CDC data tracker is an excellent resource for finding the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 cases in your area.
Absolutely. Just like with any other virus, mutations in the virus’s genes will occur and bring about new variants. We see new strains and viruses regularly with things like the flu and the common cold. In fact, although Omicron is the predominant Variant of Concern (along with Delta), there are newer variants, like Zeta, being monitored.
However, that does not mean that every variant will be as transmissible or as concerning as the Omicron variant. And in fact, at some point COVID-19 will become endemic. This means that viral infections will become less severe and enough immunity will exist in the population to keep infection levels low.
Whether you know you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or you’re starting to exhibit symptoms, it is important to find a COVID-19 testing center that can quickly provide you with the test results you need. Our BioCollections testing centers in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Puerto Rico have an average turnaround time of 12 hours, which means minimal wait times to receive your results. When you need a COVID-19 test you can count on, trust BioCollections Worldwide.