technical brief released on Nov.28 by the World Health Organization announced concern of the new Omicron variant which poses a “very high” global risk with the potential of high transmission and a “high likelihood” of escape from antibodies. 

The first Omicron case was first reported in South Africa on Nov.11, according to the brief. Infection rates have increased steeply in South Africa which coincided with the detection of Omicron. 

Omicron has an “unprecedented” number of spike mutations which the WHO calls concerning for the "potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic". Since then, it has been found in four WHO regions of Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, and the Western Pacific. 

As a result, the United States prepares to close its borders to travelers from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia to limit spread of a COVID-19 variant. 

In the brief, the WHO said there is substantial uncertainty regarding Omicron’s transmissibility, immune escape potential from either infection or vaccine-induced immunity, clinical presentation, severity of disease, and response to other available countermeasures. The brief read, “if another major surge of COVID-19 takes place driven by Omicron, consequences may be severe”. 

According to the WHO, risk to vulnerable populations especially in countries with low vaccination rates could be "substantial." 

There have been no reported deaths linked to the Omicron variant.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to announce any Omicron cases in the United States since the WHO classified th variant as a concern on Nov.26. With the variant surveillance system in place in the U.S, the CDC is continuously expects to quickly identify Omicron if it emerges in the U.S.

The White House chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci has publicly said "inevitably, it will be here". In a readout of President Joe Biden’s meeting with the COVID-19 Response Team, Dr. Fauci reiterated that boosters for fully vaccinated individuals provide the strongest available protection from COVID. They recommend all eligible fully vaccinated adults to get a booster shot as soon as possible. All adults are eligible for a booster if they were vaccinated six months ago or more with Pfizer or Moderna, or two months ago or more with Johnson & Johnson. The COVID-19 Response Team recommends for adults and children who are not yet fully vaccinated should get vaccinated immediately. 

The technical brief recommends enhanced surveillance and sequencing efforts, accelerated COVID-19 vaccination coverage, and renewed social distancing restrictions and contact tracing.

"In anticipation of increased COVID-19 caseloads and associated pressure on the health system, ensure mitigation plans are in place to maintain essential health services and necessary health care resources are in place to respond to potential surges," it advised.

Public Health Director Tomos Aragon announced California is monitoring the new Omicron Variant which has not arrived in the U.S.

"Vaccines continue to be our best way through the pandemic by safely protecting us against severe illness from COVID-19 and its variants. We are doubling down on our vaccination and booster efforts to ensure that all Californians have access to safe, effective, and free vaccines that can prevent serious illness and death," Argon said. 

San Diego County reported 403 COVID-19 cases were reported to the County on Nov. 23, 2021. The region’s total is now 382,450. The county’s case rate per 100,000 residents is 14.2 overall, 8.6 for fully vaccinated people and 23.9 for not fully vaccinated San Diegans. As of Nov.17, 24 new COVID-19 related deaths were reported, bringing the region’s total to 4,325.

The California Department of Public Heath recommends four specific actions that can be taken by all Californians to help slow the spread of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant. 

  • Get Vaccinated: All COVID-19 vaccinations are currently available in California for individuals ages 5 and older. Those over the age of 18 who are at least six months since last does of Pfizer or Moderna, or at least two months since J&J, are eligible for a booster. To get vaccinated or get a booster call (833) 422-4255 or visit the My Turn website
  • Wear Masks: Masks are recommended by the CDPH in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status. Masks are required at indoor public spaces for those who are unvaccinated. It is mandatory to wear masks on public transit, in public health care settings, K-12 schools, childcare settings, correctional facilities, cooling centers and shelters. 
  • Get Tested: Individuals should immediately get tested if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms regardless of vaccination status. Testing is free for anyone who needs it. Find a testing site online or call (833) 422-4255 or 211.
  • Stay home if you are feeling sick.  


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