Omicron is here. What do you need to know?

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The first confirmed cases of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant have been detected in America. Along with the Delta variant, Omicron is a Variant of Concern for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both variants were first detected abroad and feared to complicate the management of the pandemic. The Delta variant proved to be more infectious and spread faster than the original virus strain. Cases in nursing homes had been on the decline, but the arrival of the Delta variant in the summer reversed that trend. One study found, “The number of COVID-19 deaths among staff and residents in nursing homes quadrupled between July and August, while COVID-19 deaths in the community doubled in the same time period.”

Researchers are still monitoring and learning about Omicron; however, here is what is known:

  • Omicron is a Variant of Concern.  According to the CDC, these variants have some “evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (for example, increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.”
  • The severity of Omicron is unclear. The number of cases is still small and research is not definitive about outcomes.
  • Breakthrough infections are possible. Early evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who become infected with the Omicron variant can spread the virus to others. However, the possibility of severe illness, hospitalization and deaths are decreased by COVID-19 vaccination. One of the American cases of Omicron was identified as an adult male in Minnesota who had been vaccinated. He developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22 and sought COVID-19 testing on Nov. 24. His symptoms have since resolved.
  • May have to be treated differently. Some monoclonal antibody treatments may not be as effective against infection with Omicron
  • New variants of the virus are expected to occur. According to the CDC, “Viruses constantly change through mutation and sometimes these mutations result in a new variant of the virus. Some variants emerge and disappear while others persist. New variants will continue to emerge.”
  • Follow the health and safety recommendations. Taking measures to reduce the spread of infection is the best ways to slow the emergence of new variants. The combination of following infection prevention guidance and COVID-19 vaccination is vital for cutting off opportunities for virus transmission.
  • Do you need a booster shot? COVID-19 booster doses are recommended for individuals who are 18 years or older.
We’re here to help

Infection prevention is a daily priority for America’s long-term healthcare facilities. The emergence of COVID-19 and its variants have been new challenges. However, The Compliance Store has been following the guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and other regulatory agencies about COVID-19 closely and we have created several resources to help providers. From action plans to policies and procedures, we have easy-to-use materials to help facilities address their threats. To learn more, call us at 877-582-7347.