A: NOPE. Virus mutations STILL don’t defy the laws of physics.
TL;DR: Whether Omicron or Delta, all SARS-CoV-2 variants are transmitted the same way, so you can reduce risk by using your #SMARTS:
↔️ Space: Keep your distance from other people.
😷 Masks: Keep your nose + mouth covered.
💨 Air: Keep it fresh.
🔄 Restrict: Keep your circle small.
🕐 Time: Keep your interactions brief.
💉 Shots: Get all 2 or 3 doses of your vaccine!
❓Is the Omicron variant more transmissible?
We don’t know yet. The variant is growing rapidly in South Africa, but whether it will outcompete Delta in other countries is still TBD. Some of the mutations identified on the spike protein are consistent with increased transmissibility, but we have to see if this plays out in real life.
❓HOW exactly could a variant be transmitted more easily?
Scientists mostly infer how new mutations contribute to the success of the virus in infecting hosts and making copies of itself. Mutations on the spike protein might allow the virus to enter cells more easily, requiring fewer virus particles to take hold as an infection. The variant could also evade weak neutralizing antibodies, making re-infection or infection after vaccination more likely.
❓How can you protect yourselves and families against Omicron?
The same basic prevention measures work for Delta, Alpha, or the OG SARS-CoV-2 variant.
💥 The best way is to get vaccinated and encourage others to do so. And be sure to get that 3rd dose if eligible. See yesterday’s post for evidence that 3rd doses can help crush variants.
💥 Nothing about the mutations in Omicron make it easier to get around masks, distancing, or good old soap and water.
Recall, the biggest risk for transmission in the presence of an infected person is SHARING AIR with someone, breathing the air that they exhale. The exhaled breath contains particles most concentrated close to the person breathing or speaking (picture your breath outside on a cold day).
❇️ SPACE & MASKS can minimize your breathing in the exhaled breath of others. The virus is carried by particles of mucus and saliva, so the distance these can travel is not changed by the new variant, nor is their ability to physically penetrate a mask.
❇️ AIR: While outside is best, remember that OUTSIDE IS NOT MAGIC if you are in close contact, especially without a mask. You can still breathe in that person’s breath.
Indoors, ventilation (meaning introducing outside air) is key. This outside air dilutes any virus in the air, pushes it outdoors, and stops it from accumulating indoors. HVAC systems can be set to bring in maximal outside air, but it’s also as easy as OPENING DOORS & WINDOWS (see more specific tips in FAQ and Slide links below).
❇️ RESTRICT: Fewer people in a room also limits the concentration of exhaled breath in the room.
❇️ TIME: If you are indoors with an infectious person emitting more virus particles from their breath, a 10-minute interaction may be as risky as a 20-minute interaction was before. Keep duration as short as possible if you think you are in a risky indoor situation.
We’ll add one more that wasn’t in our original acronym:
❇️ TEST: Regular rapid testing, especially before any close- contact indoor gathering is a GREAT extra layer of protection. A negative test just prior to an event is not perfect but provides reassurance that the person tested is likely not contagious. The rapid tests will still detect Omicron.
💥 Remember the Swiss Cheese model—even lots of small measures with holes stacked together can add up to big protection.
Some days it feels like SARS-CoV-2 is playing with us, like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown 🏈. We’re all tired of the pandemic and precautions.
If you and most of those around you are fully vaxxed and/or boosted, you can definitely feel safer in your daily activities. If you are at higher risk due to immunosuppression, or have unvaccinated young children, you may want to be more cautious. For everyone, if cases are high or rising in your area, bringing back your #SMARTS can be good insurance against that annoying Greek alphabet.
Those Nerdy Girls
At-home Covid-19 tests are getting better. Experts say: Stock up for winter.