“It’s got a lot of new changes to its genetic structure. I think it’s something like 30 or 31 mutations compared to the earlier viruses. I think most people were expecting that any new variant would be a version of delta, but it’s not. It’s actually very different,” said Dr. Paul Calkins, the associate chief medical executive at IU Health.
Calkins said it’s possible the omicron variant is already in the United States because it is so infectious.
“It appears to be growing, and if it’s growing in a world that has delta in it, it must be pretty contagious or it would be getting swamped out like delta did with all the other variants,” said Calkins.
Calkins said while the idea of the omicron variant spreading in the U.S. is concerning, he wants to remind people to focus on what’s already here.
“We are actually in the middle of a COVID-19 surge right now with the delta variant. The numbers in the state are going up dramatically. We don’t need to wait around for a new variant. We are already dealing with a COVID surge,” said Calkins.
It’s still not known if the omicron variant is vaccine evasive. Doctors said the best way to fight it and the delta variant is to wear masks, get vaccinated and, if you're already vaccinated, get a booster shot if it has been at least six months since you were fully vaccinated.
“You don’t want to not get vaccinated because you figure it’s not going to do any good against a variant you haven’t even seen yet. We already have a variant we need to manage right now,” said Calkins.