February 02, 2022
What you need to know about COVID-19 & Omicron
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has raised uncertainty about steps we should take to remain safe and healthy. With a variety of media sources offering varying guidance, it can be difficult to know what’s best for you and your family. Dr. Blair Thedinger, a practicing physician of 13 years and KC CARE’s Associate Medical Director, has taken a moment to address some of the most common questions we have received about Omicron.
Q: Is Omicron going to spread more quickly?
A: Yes. Omicron is more infectious because it has had time to adapt to our vaccines and treatments. One infected person is more likely to spread the virus to a higher number of individuals.
Q: How are the symptoms of Omicron different from previous variants of COVID-19?
A: For those who are vaccinated and at low-risk of severe COVID-19 illness, the most common symptoms of Omicron are the same as those of a common cold (stuffy nose, sore throat, nasal drainage, mild cough). For those who are unvaccinated, have chronic health conditions, and/or are over 65 years old, Omicron might cause severe symptoms similar to previous variants, such as lower respiratory inflammation and acute respiratory distress.
Q: Am I safe from Omicron if I haven’t received a booster shot?
A: That depends. The original series of COVID-19 vaccines provides good protection against severe COVID-19 illness for people who are low-risk. For high-risk individuals, booster shots are critically important. Regardless of your level of risk, KC CARE recommends all people who are eligible get a booster shot.
Q: Why are vaccinated people experiencing breakthrough infections of Omicron?
A: A breakthrough infection does not mean the vaccine is not working. Being vaccinated against COVID-19 offers robust protection against severe illness. Vaccine immunity remains the best protection against COVID-19, even if it does not provide complete protection from infection.
Q: How do I protect myself and my loved ones who are high-risk?
A: If you have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, do so as soon as possible. The next step is to make sure you have received your booster shot. If you are vaccinated and boosted, the chance of a breakthrough infection is very low. For those who are still concerned, continue to practice social distancing and wear the best available mask when around others.
Q: With all the shortages right now, is it worth looking for rapid COVID-19 tests and KN95 masks?
A: Yes. While there are shortages of rapid COVID-19 tests and KN95 masks right now, that will change soon. It is good to keep an eye out for these items whenever you are at the grocery store or pharmacy, and purchase a few of them to keep on hand if they are available. If you have not already signed up, every home in the U.S. is eligible to receive four free rapid COVID-19 tests. These tests are completely free of charge. Visit https://www.covidtests.gov/ to order yours. The federal government has also announced plans to distribute free KN95 masks through pharmacies and community health centers, like KC CARE, by early February 2022.