The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) reported that the Omicron variant has been detected in all but sixteen of the United States. The Delta variant continues to be the main variant circulating in the United States, however. The World Health Organization (“WHO”) reported on December 14, 2021, that seventy-seven countries have reported cases of the Omicron variant. Even still, the WHO suspects that the Omicron variant is in all countries even if it has yet to be detected. WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged that vaccination alone is not enough; everyone should observe social distancing, hand hygiene, proper ventilation, and all other protective measures observed throughout the pandemic.

Many unknowns remain regarding the effects of the Omicron variant. The CDC reported that the Omicron variant spreads more easily than the original COVID-19 virus but how easily it spreads compared to the Delta variant is still unknown. Individuals that are vaccinated should be protected from severe reaction to the Omicron variant, although breakthrough infections for those individuals are likely to occur. The CDC emphasized that “[v]accines remain the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19, slow transmission, and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging.”

Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers will continue to provide relevant updates for healthcare providers on the Health Law Pulse during the COVID-19 public health crisis.