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Lessons from Omicron: How We Prepare for the Next COVID-19 Variant

The Omicron strain of COVID-19 was the most prevalent in the U.S. for several weeks with infections far outpacing previous strains like Delta.

What do we now know about the Omicron strain? And how can we use that knowledge to help prepare for the next wave of the pandemic?

CareSpot and MedPost have answers you need to help you stay safe.

The Big Picture: Omicron’s Place in Global Pandemic

To this point, the COVID-19 global pandemic has lasted nearly two years and the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – was the latest variant to sicken thousands of people.

Omicron cases first surfaced in South Africa in late 2021. Within weeks, case numbers mushroomed in dozens of countries worldwide, including the United States.

Those case numbers have begun to decline, and some U.S. states are lifting restrictions put in place to control infections. Now experts will sift through the data to figure out whether Omicron caused more hospitalizations and deaths – especially in people who have received vaccines and booster shots against COVID-19.

Omicron’s Twist: Infecting More People – More Quickly

The most striking aspect of the Omicron surges were the infection rates caused by the new variant. Omicron appears to have been the most infectious variant of COVID-19 so far.

Experts estimate that people infected with the Omicron strain were able to infect twice or three times as many people as they might have with other COVID-19 strains.

The CDC has said that people can spread Omicron infections to others, even the infected person has been vaccinated and is not showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Natural immunity from prior COVID-19 infections also does not appear to completely shield people from the Omicron strain. The Mayo Clinic has said that more people have been re-infected with Omicron, regardless of whether they have previously had COVID-19.

Fighting Omicron with Vaccines

No COVID-19 vaccines were developed specifically to fight the Omicron strain and existing vaccines seemed to have lower protection rates against Omicron than against other strains. But there was one small silver lining: Current vaccines appear to have provided about 70% protection against severe illness caused by Omicron.

Vaccines continue to be a key tool in preventing illness, hospitalization and death from other COVID-19 variants. Omicron’s ability to rapidly infect many people only reinforced the importance of vaccines and boosters. And unvaccinated people remain at the highest risk for severe illness from any of the COVID-19 variants.

People who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 should get their shots as soon as possible – as should people who haven’t gotten their booster.
The booster shots greatly improve antibody response to Omicron and other COVID-19 variants, and those shots are especially important for people who are elderly or immunocompromised.

Omicron Symptoms vs. Other Variants

For many people infected with the Omicron strain, vaccination seems to have helped protect them from severe symptoms. Most people infected with the strain experienced some or all of these common symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Runny Nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore Throat

That’s a contrast to previous COVID-19 variants, which often brought on coughing, difficulty breathing, fever, and loss of taste or smell, among other symptoms.
Even with the benefits of vaccination, the higher rate of infections caused by Omicron still caused many people to be hospitalized, straining the healthcare system once more. Those numbers include many patients experiencing “long COVID” (post-acute sequelae SARS-CoV-2 infection) or a rebound of their symptoms.

One Big Question: Omicron or a Cold?

Omicron infections could present with milder symptoms and many infections occurred during the winter months, when colds are more common. This makes it difficult to distinguish Omicron from cold infections.

The best solution: Getting tested. COVID-19 testing, including for the Omicron strain, is available at all CareSpot and MedPost locations.

With the Omicron variant able to spread so quickly between individuals, it’s vital to know whether your symptoms are the result of a cold or the latest strain.

Different Symptoms with Unclear Impact

Though Omicron symptoms might be considered “milder” than other COVID-19 variants, such descriptions could understate the danger of COVID-19’s latest evolution. Health experts may find that Omicron was just as deadly as other variants, like Delta.

The difference is in the number of people who became infected. Because Omicron could spread more quickly than other variants, it could produce the same number of hospitalizations and deaths – even if the overall fatality rate of Omicron is lower than previous strains.

The CDC recommends that people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms isolate from others for five days. Medical professionals recommend that people who are self-isolating take good care of themselves by staying hydrated, staying active and eating small meals, even if they are not hungry.

Many Omicron symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter meds like Tylenol or ibuprofen for fever and Robitussin for cough. People who feel that their symptoms may be worsening should be evaluated by a medical professional.

The Importance of Testing

COVID-19 testing has been one of the most important tools in the fight against the pandemic, and it is offered at every CareSpot and MedPost location near you.
CareSpot and MedPost clinics also have extended hours, online and appointments, and convenient locations that make it easy for you to protect yourself and your family.

COVID-19 tests are designed to find the virus’ genetic material in respiratory fluids. If you’re experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms – even milder ones associated with Omicron – you should get test as soon as possible to help control the spread of the infection.
Patients who have chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer or heart disease should also alert their primary care physician if they are found to be infected.

Other Things You Can Do

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant only reinforced the importance of tools like vaccines and testing.

You can also help fight the pandemic by wearing a mask, washing your hands, avoiding crowds, and maintaining social distancing. Together, these may help prevent the spread of Omicron and other variants that develop in the future.

About CareSpot Urgent Care

CareSpot Urgent Care is now part of FastMed, one of the nation’s largest urgent care providers, with nearly 200 clinics in Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina and Texas. FastMed provides a broad range of acute/episodic, preventative, and occupational healthcare – in its clinics and via telemedicine – as well as family medicine at select clinics. FastMed is one of the few urgent care providers in the nation that has earned The Joint Commission’s coveted Gold Seal of Approval ® for quality, safety and infection control in ambulatory healthcare. For more information, visit

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