Everything we know about this variant of COVID-19

TRENTON – The latest worrying variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed in New Jersey, as omicron was also detected in about a third of the country over the weekend, as expected.

New Jersey confirmed its first variant case on Friday evening, said Governor Phil Murphy and State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli – it was a fully vaccinated Georgia resident who had recently traveled to Africa from the South, before returning home and then heading to New Jersey.

She had shown “moderate” symptoms since testing positive on November 28 and was recovering after receiving treatment in an emergency department in North Jersey, Murphy said.

Earlier on Friday, New York City health officials announced that a convention attendee had also been confirmed to have the new variant of COVID.

As of Sunday in New York, seven cases were confirmed in New York and another in Long Island, as reported by The Associated Press, which also said a man in his 30s from Philadelphia became Pennsylvania’s first case. .

“The Omicron variant is among us and we must take action to stop its spread. It is essential that residents remain as vigilant as possible while awaiting more information on the variant, ”Murphy said in a written statement.

The following is a list of popular questions and answers about the latest variant of COVID, for example, does it seem easier to spread and does vaccines seem to still work against it?

When was the omicron variant first detected?

On November 26, the World Health Organization named Omicron and classified it as a variant of concern, after it was detected by scientists in South Africa.

The United States also classified it as a variant of concern days later Tuesday, as confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Do current COVID vaccines work against this variant?

It is too early to know how effective existing COVID vaccines are against the omicron variant and any other mutations.

Groundbreaking infections in fully vaccinated people are expected, according to the CDC, but all vaccines approved or authorized by the FDA are expected to be effective against serious illness, hospitalizations and death.

Scientists have expressed concern that the variant may be more contagious and better able to escape a body’s antibodies generated either by vaccination or a previous COVID infection, as reported by Bloomberg.

Omicron has over 30 mutations, many of them in its spike protein alone.

Is there any evidence that this variant spreads faster or easier than others?

A pair of preliminary studies in South Africa late last week indicated that there was evidence that the omicron variant of COVID was spreading twice as fast as the delta variant and could also be three times more likely. to re-infect those who have already recovered from COVID-19, as reported by Forbes, which also cited a New York Times report.

As of Sunday in New Jersey, with the Delta variant continuing to drive cases here, there were 1,113 patients hospitalized for COVID statewide, including 217 in intensive care units.

There were also 3,097 new confirmed cases and 542 new probable cases, based on test results.

What about antibody infusions, will they still be helpful against the new variant?

Because of those same viral mutations, some monoclonal antibody treatments may not be as effective against omicron infection, according to the CDC.

If fully vaccinated people can still be infected, why get vaccinated?

In November, medical researchers were looking at the evidence that people fully vaccinated against COVID are still less likely to be infected and, if infected, will be contagious for shorter periods of time than unvaccinated people.

This has been supported by transmission studies confirming that vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus through close contacts compared to unvaccinated people, including the delta variant, as reported and published by the American Medical Association.

This research does not include case studies of COVID patients with an omicron variant because it had not yet been detected.

Are booster shots necessary for anyone without an underlying condition?

Studies show that after being vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus and the ability to prevent infection may decline over time, state officials repeated Friday. Vaccine booster doses provide essential additional protection.

While more than 70% of residents received their primary vaccine series, only 31% of eligible residents had received a booster in early December, state health officials said on Friday.

As of December 5, there were just under 14 million doses of the vaccine administered statewide, with 8.41 million people having received at least one dose.

The CDC recommends that all people 5 years of age and older get the vaccine, and those fully vaccinated who are 18 and older receive a booster dose.

A recent study by Science magazine found that vaccine effectiveness from July to October of this year decreased by approximately the following percentages: J&J vaccine effectiveness from 86.4% to 13.1%; Moderna from 89.2% to 58% and for Pfizer the efficiency increased from 86.9% to 43.3%, according to the published report.

Do patients with the omicron variant of COVID experience milder cases?

Too early to tell too.

The first reported infections were in university students, according to the WHO, which also noted that these younger people tended to have milder symptoms overall during the pandemic. There were therefore too many variables among the first cases to have a clear idea of ​​the level of severity it presents.

Groundbreaking cases of COVID in general, based on the evidence gathered since people were first able to get fully vaccinated against the virus, present themselves as more manageable symptoms that do not require hospitalization.

In New Jersey, from January 19 to November 15, 54,260 breakthrough cases were reported among 5.88 million fully vaccinated people.

Of those cases, 1,160 fully vaccinated people required hospitalization for COVID (0.02%), while 314 COVID-related deaths were reported among fully vaccinated people (0.005%).

What preventive measures are recommended?

These are the same bases as of March 2020, with the additional vaccination and booster layers, as eligible.

There has been no statewide requirement for indoor masking since the end of May, except for public transport, healthcare facilities and schools, as per guidelines of the CDC.

State and federal health officials recently encouraged the wearing of masks in all crowded areas, especially indoors, regardless of vaccine status, amid the potential impact of omicron and the general idea of ​​more indoor activities as the winter months arrive.

“We are still learning about the Omicron variant, but we have tools to stop the spread of the virus, the most important of which is to get vaccinated and get a booster dose,” Persichilli said in the same release. written on Friday.

“The public should continue to mask themselves, get tested for symptoms, keep a physical distance, avoid overcrowded events, stay home when sick and wash their hands frequently.”

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