As scientists race to comprehend this new wave of the pandemic, information is proliferating nearly as speedy as the virus itself, and it can be challenging to continue to keep up. Here’s assistance from authorities on how to utilize the most up-to-date information about Omicron to your day by day existence:

How infectious is Omicron?

Omicron is by much the most infectious coronavirus variant and one of the swiftest-spreading viruses at any time recognized. Very first detected in late November, it traveled the planet within just 1 thirty day period, infecting thousands and thousands. Some specialists have known as it the second-most infectious disorder after measles, although 1 doctor calculated that it transmits even quicker than measles.

What transpired in Massachusetts illustrates Omicron’s lightning tempo. Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard discovered solid proof of Omicron in 45 percent of samples taken Dec. 13 by means of 16. By the future week, that was up to 80 per cent, and has now attained 95 per cent.

Is it risk-free to go grocery searching? Dine indoors at a restaurant? Play sports activities indoors? Go snowboarding?

The solution to all these issues is: It is dependent. “There are gradations of harmless,” stated Dr. Megan L. Ranney, an crisis medical professional and educational dean for the Brown College Faculty of General public Wellbeing.

You have to take into consideration your own stage of defense, the environment you’re heading to, and whether there are vulnerable men and women in your residence. If you are vaccinated and have received a booster shot, you’re hugely unlikely to get significantly ill. But you could nevertheless catch COVID-19 and spread it to some others.

Ranney outlets for groceries, but with a high-good quality mask (see below for information). She does not try to eat at dining places indoors, due to the fact that demands taking away the mask. She lets her youngsters, who are vaccinated, perform indoor athletics, but only in places with excellent air flow and exactly where anyone is masked. “But it’s not danger-cost-free,” she notes.

Eve Wittenberg, senior exploration scientist in the Center for Well being Determination Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan University of Public Health, endorses making an attempt to hold it simple.

Are you vaccinated, boosted, and sporting a large-high-quality mask? Are you cost-free of any clinical conditions that put you at superior chance? Can the similar be mentioned about the men and women you reside with?

If the answer is of course to all these concerns, then positive, go to the grocery retail store — your possibility is small, she stated.

But if there are unvaccinated young children in your household or you stay with an elderly or immunocompromised person, you may well need to have an added layer of safety. You may possibly want to decide for curbside pickup, to perform it safe.

A further essential consideration is the benefit of the action you are contemplating, Wittenberg mentioned. Some factors are worthy of the possibility, such as browsing household for the holidays.

Over the program of just about every 7 days, pick and decide on between the challenges you take, and “take the pitfalls in which there is a massive payoff,” Wittenberg advises. If likely to the grocery retail store is actually significant to you, it’s possible purchase on the web from CVS. “It’s a balancing act of . . . making choices among which are the kinds that have higher advantage and which types you can do without,” she claimed.

For some people, on the net final decision applications can be useful. Ranney endorses mycovidrisk.application, developed by the Brown-Lifespan Centre for Electronic Health, which she established. The program, which has been altered to account for Omicron’s better transmissibility, asks a couple of questions about the activity you are arranging and fees its risk level. Then it invites you to reduced your threat by answering such issues as regardless of whether you and the people you are with will be vaccinated and masked. The application then shows a dial exhibiting whether your chance is low, moderate, or substantial.

Wittenberg thinks these types of applications are “nifty, enjoyable, great in principle” but cautions that some individuals may uncover them annoying. “It does all the math for you, but it would make you hyperaware of the 72 aspects [that will] make a decision irrespective of whether you’re heading to die upcoming 7 days,” she said. And these apps really don’t support with spur-of-the-minute selections, this sort of as no matter if to run into a retail store to seize a pair of objects.

But what about skiing? Why are we hearing about outbreaks at resorts?

The transmission nearly absolutely did not transpire on the slopes. As with parades and the Sturgis bike rally, the indoor things to do that accompany these activities are exactly where the virus is most most likely to unfold.

Ranney suspects that gatherings in the ski lodge and right after-ski get-togethers are to blame. “You arrive off a slope, go into the lodge, get a cup of very hot chocolate, get a beer,” she stated. All those are routines that just can’t materialize whilst putting on a mask. “There’s not something magical about currently being in a position of feeding on that tends to make the virus end transmitting,” Ranney explained.

Do masks operate towards Omicron?

All variants of the coronavirus transmit in the identical way, by traveling by means of the air, and masks can continue to keep the virus at bay. But the variation with Omicron is that contaminated men and women carry higher portions of the virus, and it attaches to the mucus membranes much more commonly. For greater defense, Ranney is urging people today to “up their mask game” by wearing healthcare-quality KF94, KN95, or N95 masks.

“I would fairly that somebody put on a surgical mask or cloth mask than no mask,” she reported. But to protect towards Omicron, a more durable barrier is preferable. Sadly there are numerous very poor-quality knock-offs on the industry, so Ranney suggests buying by, a nonprofit that sells medical-quality masks to consumers.

Do speedy at-home antigen exams detect Omicron?

Indeed, but with some caveats. The Food and Drug Administration has been assessing antigen tests and claimed last 7 days, “Early facts suggests that antigen checks do detect the Omicron variant but may perhaps have decreased sensitivity.”

But new investigate indicates these assessments may not detect coronavirus early in the study course of infection. Specialists emphasize that the tests are even now worthy of utilizing, but if you’ve been uncovered to an individual with COVID-19 or have indications, never assume that a unfavorable test presents you a cost-free move. You may well want to stay residence and take a look at again in a day or two.

Can I still get extended COVID if I’m vaccinated and boosted?

Regrettably, it appears so. Vaccinated folks who have had mild, breakthrough situations of COVID-19 have made prolonged COVID, a syndrome in which signs this kind of as memory reduction and exhaustion carry on for months right after a COVID an infection. But experiments differ on whether or not vaccines minimize the likelihood of producing extended COVID.

Dr. Jason H. Maley, director of Beth Israel Health-related Center’s Critical Illness and COVID-19 Survivorship Software, reported his clinic has “certainly continued to see extensive COVID with breakthrough infections and it is turn out to be apparent that regrettably sufferers are at danger of lengthy COVID in that circumstance.”

With Omicron’s quick increase and capability to infect vaccinated folks, the numbers of persons with long COVID could soar.

“We foresee that extended COVID will be equally typical among persons infected with Omicron,” Maley explained in an e-mail. “We really do not have company details on this simply because it is just too early in the course of the latest Omicron surge to know extended-time period results.”

The hazard of prolonged COVID is a further explanation why vaccinated folks should continue to dress in masks and take other safety measures. Even while Omicron appears to develop milder sickness than other variants, COVID-19 continues to be a illness you do not want to get.

Felice J. Freyer can be arrived at at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @felicejfreyer.

By Amalia