Common questions about the Omicron variant, answered
As the COVID-19 Omicron variant continues to surge nationwide, here are some answers important questions related to transmissibility, gatherings and illness.
What do we know about transmissibility of the Omicron variant?
The Omicron variant is far more transmissible than previous strains and can at least partially evade the immune response from previous infection and vaccination. We are seeing the highest rates of new infections and higher breakthrough infections than with previous surges.
Is it safe to gather?
Large gatherings are not safe right now, especially indoors and masked. Small gatherings with people who are fully vaccinated and boosted are the safest, but are not without risk given the incredible amount of transmission in the community.
Is a surgical or cloth mask enough to protect myself from the Omicron variant? Is a more protective mask needed to evade Omicron?
A well-fitting, double-layered cloth mask remains appropriate. A medical droplet mask will provide more protection and an N95 mask will filter 95% of viral particles.
What can I do to keep my children safe in school for the remainder of the semester?
If your child is eligible, their best defense against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant is a COVID-19 vaccine or booster. It’s recommended that children wear a well-fitted mask at school and practice good hygiene throughout the day. If your child is sick, keep them at home and get them tested for COVID-19. If everyone follows the same rules and takes precautions, our children have a better chance of staying healthy and in the classroom.
If I was exposed to COVID-19, do I need to get tested even if I don’t have any symptoms?
Anyone with a high-risk exposure should get tested around days 5-7 following the exposure, or sooner if you have symptoms.
Are at-home tests accurate? Are rapid tests accurate? Do I need to get a PCR test for the most accurate result?
Home tests are the most accurate in symptomatic people. However, false negatives are possible. A symptomatic person who takes a home antigen test with a negative result should seek out a PCR test. A PCR test is also more accurate, especially for asymptomatic people.
I have COVID-19. How long do I need to quarantine? Do I need to test negative to get out of isolation?
Those who test positive for COVID-19 should quarantine for 7 days. A test is not needed to end the isolation period.
Is this recent surge of cases due to the Omicron variant helping us get to herd immunity?
The answer to this question remains to be seen. Herd immunity depends on durability of immune response and the rate of the mutation.