COVID-19 Omicron Variant FAQ
What is UP Health System doing to prepare for the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant?
Our team is highly skilled at managing and treating infectious diseases of all types, including COVID-19. We are continuing to closely follow guidance from the CDC and our local/state health departments and are adhering to the rigorous health and safety protocols that have always been in place at our facility. These operating protocols were further enhanced when the pandemic began and include:
- Requiring masking for everyone inside our facilities.
- Screening for COVID-19 symptoms.
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols.
- Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.
- Isolating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
- Encouraging COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses, for all eligible individuals.
Is the Omicron variant more contagious than other strains?
Early data suggest that Omicron is likely more transmissible than any other identified strain – including the Delta variant – which means it is more contagious. Omicron has been detected in most U.S. states and is rapidly increasing the proportion of COVID-19 cases it is causing. The CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.
Is the Omicron variant more deadly than Delta or other previous strains?
We are still learning about the characteristics of the Omicron variant as the research continues to evolve. For now, we know that the best thing you can do is get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect yourself. Vaccinated individuals are significantly less likely to spread the virus, become severely ill if they do contract COVID-19, require hospitalization or die.
Do current COVID-19 vaccines protect against the Omicron variant?
Studies are ongoing, but current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant.
Is UP Health System testing COVID-19-positive patients for the Omicron variant?
We are not testing patients with COVID-19 to determine which strain they may have. The specific type of variant doesn’t impact how we care for COVID-19 patients, nor does it impact the health and safety protocols already in place to protect our team and all those who enter our facilities.
What should our community do to slow the spread of the Omicron variant?
We already have the right tools at our disposal to combat Omicron. The best defense is to get a COVID-19 vaccine and encourage everyone you know to get vaccinated, including the booster dose if you are eligible. At this point, most of the patients we are seeing who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. It is also wise to wear a mask, socially distance from others and practice proper hand hygiene to help slow the spread of illness.
If I have already been vaccinated, should I get a booster shot to help further protect myself against the Omicron variant?
Yes. If you meet the criteria for receiving a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, it is strongly recommended that you get one as soon as possible to help protect yourself and prevent the spread of illness. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 18 years and older should get a booster shot at least two months after their initial J&J/Janssen vaccine or six months after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
Are breakthrough infections more likely with the Omicron variant if I’m already vaccinated?
Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 are possible regardless of the specific variant, as no vaccine is 100% effective. The good news is that even if you contract COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated, you are significantly less likely to become severely ill or require hospitalization.
Has the Omicron variant been identified in our community?
The best sources of information regarding the presence and impact of the Omicron variant in our community are the Marquette County Health Department and the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department.
Will there be other strains of SARS-CoV-2?
It is normal for viruses to mutate and develop new strains – this happens with the influenza virus every year, for example. Because of this, there are several different strains of the SARS-CoV-2 currently circulating, and it is likely that other strains may develop over time. It is very important to get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect yourself and others from any strain of the virus.