On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization classified a new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529, as a Variant of Concern and named it Omicron. On November 30th, the United States also classified Omicron as a Variant of Concern, and on December 1st, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) confirmed the first case of Omicron in the United States.
While there is still much to learn about the Omicron variant, we do know that it has many mutations in important areas of the virus that impact infectiousness and the ability for immune systems to protect from infection. Some of the mutations are concerning to scientists because they are very different from other variants previously detected.
At this time, we don’t know if the Omicron variant causes more severe COVID-19 illness than other variants or how it might impact response to treatment. Public Health officials are tracking the variant and providing information to the public as it becomes available. For the most current information, see CDPH’s fact sheet on the Omicron variant.
How to Protect Yourself
There are four specific actions that Californians can take to help slow the spread of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant.