Masks, vaccines and boosters are key
Public health experts say omicron's arrival in the U.S. doesn't change the best measures of protection — the ones they have been encouraging all along.
“I don't think that this changes the fundamentals of what we know works for protecting against transmission of the virus. I don't think that this is necessarily going to make masks
less effective; it's not going to make social distancing less effective. These are the things that are tried and true,” Ozer says.
With winter here, it’s also important to avoid poorly ventilated spaces and crowded indoor settings, both of which give the virus more of an opportunity to spread.
A booster shot
, if you haven’t had one already, will enhance your protection against COVID. That’s because the vaccines don’t just zero in on one part of the spike protein, they target multiple parts of it, “and so loss of effectiveness against one part of this spike protein may not affect antibodies that have been developed against other parts,” Ozer says.
And what a booster shot does is give those antibodies some extra oomph.
With a high enough antibody level, hand in hand with “other elements of the immune response,” Fauci said, “there’s every reason to believe” the vaccines will continue to be able to keep people from getting severely ill from omicron and other variants.
Both Pfizer and Moderna are working on developing an omicron-specific vaccine that could be available as early as spring of 2022, in case one is needed.
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COVID testing is another action that experts are encouraging with omicron here. Rapid tests can help to quickly identify cases before they spread. And along with other precautionary measures, they can bring peace of mind to people as they gather over the holidays.
Finally: Get your flu shot
. If omicron does turn out to be a more virulent version of the virus, the “last thing we want is a twindemic — an outbreak of COVID and an outbreak of flu at the same time — both hitting our hospitals simultaneously,” Schaffner says.