Nearly two years into the pandemic and, although things have improved, the threat from the virus still remains.
This became ever clearer with the news of a new variant of concern, Omicron, originating in South Africa. While there is still a lot to be learnt about the variant, what we do know is that it's outcompeting the Delta variant in areas of South Africa and has significant mutations which could lead to immune escape.
This is potentially bad news as it means the vaccines could offer less protection against Omicron than other variants. Should Omicron prove as transmissible and deadly, or more so than Delta, then it could lead to tighter restrictions and a further wave of cases and, potentially, deaths.
It's important to note that things are still at an early stage and there are a lot of unknown variables at present. Omicron could turn out to be less dangerous than thought, which is the view of some scientists. Or it could turn out to be a problem.
While this is still unknown, what we do know is that no recorded cases of Omicron have been detected in Florida, or the country.
When asked about Omicron by Weekend Today, infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, said that he wouldn't be surprised if the variant showed up in the country soon due to its high level of transmissibility. This means it's likely to end up in Florida sooner rather than later. Here's what Dr Fauci said:
"We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you're already having travel-related cases that they've been noted in Israel and Belgium and in other places — when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over.”
He went on to say that due to the number of mutations associated with Omicron, it could be more contagious than Delta which ripped through Florida in the summer.
"We don't know that yet, but we're going to assume that's the case. These are all maybes, but the suggestion is enough. This is something we got to pay really close attention to and be prepared for something that's serious. It may not turn out that way, but you really want to be ahead of it."
With fears high about the potential impact of Omicron, Dr Fauci had a stark warning for those who are yet to be vaccinated:
"It's absolutely essential that unvaccinated people get vaccinated and that vaccinated people get boosters"
What happens next remains to be seen but it does look like Omicron might be arriving in Florida soon. Given Governor DeSantis refusal to countenance extra restrictions when Delta struck, it's unlikely he'll introduce them should Omicron turn to be as bad, or worse.
The best protection against Omicron is to ensure you're fully vaccinated. Although it's likely the vaccines will be less effective against a newer variant, some level of protection is better than none.
What are your thoughts on the news of the Omicron variant? Do you think restrictions should be reintroduced in Florida? Or will the variant turn out to be less deadly than first feared?
Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts.