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Omicron is coming: Infectious disease expert recommends continued masking

Nov. 30.  By Dave Yochum. Atrium infectious disease expert Dr. Christopher Ohl said during a news briefing that the latest COVID-19 variant took the scientific community by surprise.

“Omicron pulled something over on us,” Ohl said.

The omicron variant adds complexity to the coronavirus predictions for the upcoming winter months, Ohl said, but he predicted it will not be as bad as this time last year or during the peak of the delta variant in September.


Omicron, was first reported to the World Health Organization on Wednesday, Nov. 24, by South African authorities. According to the WHO, South Africa started seeing a new spike in cases, and that’s what led to the discovery of the new variant.

Keep masking

Now is not the time to relax mask requirements, Ohl said.

“December and January are when respiratory viruses go around, particularly in our kids, particularly in a school setting,” he said. “Masks are going to protect against COVID, they’re going to protect against flu, and they’re going to protect against some of these other viruses.”

Nevertheless, he said if you’ve been vaccinated and received your booster shot, don’t change your behavior because of omicron.

Get vaccinated

“Wear a mask indoors,” he said, saying that he remains careful about gathering with others indoors.

“If you are unvaccinated, now is the time to get it,” he said.

As of yesterday, the omicron variant was not apparent in the United States, but Ohl said it is inevitable that it will get here in a matter of time.

Comparing to delta

“If you look at delta, we got hit four or five months after the early cases,” he said. “Maybe we will have some time to get ready before omicron gets here.”

Viruses usually change one or two mutations at a time, Ohl said. Omicron is different and more complex.

“Where you are seeing many unmasked people, you will see the case load going up. If a community is not following guidelines, you will see a struggle,” Ohl said.


It’s bad science to be unmasking kids, he said, referring to schools statewide that are relaxing mask requirements.

“Thirty percent of COVID cases are people under 18 years old,” Ohl said.