New Year, New Variant

The new Covid-19 variant, omicron, is rapidly spreading.


With the emergence of the new year, 2022, many people were hoping for a fresh start, preferably one with lessening stress of Covid-19. However, infectious disease specialists knew better, predicting a surge in January 2022. 

The newest variant of the coronavirus, known as omicron, is proving to be the most contagious variant yet, making it spread the fastest. The rush of infections was well predicted, as the daily global case count reached a new daily peak on January 11, 2022, reaching nearly three million cases. The United States, currently the country with the highest number of accounted Covid-19 cases, peaked in new daily cases on January 7, reaching nearly nine hundred thousand new cases. 

In order to counter the spread of the virus, many doctors suggest doubling up one’s cloth mask with a surgical mask, or switching to an N95 or KN95 mask that is more protective, as cloth masks have shown to be much less effective against omicron. According to infectious disease specialists, while thinner, single layer cloth masks may be more comfortable or even stylish, they often are only able to stop large droplets that could possibly carry the virus and aren’t very effective in blocking smaller particles that could carry the virus. In fact, the Mayo Clinic recently started requiring patients and visitors to wear an N95 or KN95 mask. 

Additionally, early studies have shown that Pfizer booster shots are beneficial in protecting against omicron, as they bump the immunity of the first two shots back up to 95%. 

Thankfully, omicron has shown to be less fatal than previous variants, such as delta. For those vaccinated, in particular, omicron seems to pass for most as a common cold. However, this does not negate the risk of breakthrough cases, possible unknown chronic side effects of getting Covid-19, and passing the virus to people that have preexisting health conditions. 

“With the current state of the pandemic, the risk of getting infected by COVID-19 is much greater considering how many students have tested positive compared to other points in the pandemic. To protect myself from Covid-19 I continue wearing my mask, sanitizing frequently, and getting vaccinated so if I get the virus the symptoms are not as drastic,” Prisha Sherdiwala (‘24) said, “It may be a good idea for PHU to make masks mandatory to lower the spread of Covid-19 at school to avoid an outbreak, especially considering that there are immuno-compromised students and teachers on campus. It wouldn’t look good on the school reputation if one of these individuals were to be put in a life-threatening situation due to a Covid-19 outbreak on campus.” 

Although a mask mandate would be beneficial to protect students against infection during this latest surge, the Pinellas County Board has decided not to defy the Florida governor’s executive order against a mask mandate.

“Students and families can choose whether to wear [a mask] or not and all choices will be respected. Pinellas County Schools strongly recommends wearing masks and has a ready supply at school for anyone who would like one,” Principal Teresa Patterson.

Nonetheless, the CDC guidelines suggest that by wearing a mask and getting vaccinated, omicron arguably poses a minor threat to most healthy teens. It is still important to maintain habits in efforts to keep our school and community safe despite Covid-19.