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Wear Your F***ing Mask: There are more than Ten COVID-19 Variants

The Virginia Department of Health reported on January 6th that the CDC and other official U.S. Health Departments have been monitoring ten new COVID-19 variants. The new variants being monitored are: B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), P.1 (Gamma), B.1.427 and B.1.429 (Epsilon), B.1.525 (Eta), B.1.526 (Iota), B.1.617.1 (Kappa), B.1.617.3 (no WHO label), P.2 (Zeta), and B.1.621.1 (Mu). The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that these aren’t “variants of concern”. The variants are and have been under investigation as researchers collect various data on them. WHO has released statements saying that they will notify the public if any of the variants are at risk of being potential health threats. 

The two main variants of concern presently are Delta and Omicron. The Delta variant was first identified in India during late December of 2020. During the short time after it’s sweep across the nation that left it to settle in the U.S., it accounted for over 99% of COVID-19 cases (during that time). It led to an overwhelming increase in hospitalizations throughout America. Health officials believe Delta to be more than twice as contagious as previous variants, and studies have shown that it may be more likely to put infected individuals in the hospital than the original virus. Insofar Delta has caused the most severe cases than any other variant. 

As for the Omicron variant the majority of information is still unknown. The CDC has been working with other countries’ health organizations as well as WHO in order to gain data on the variant. The only thing we do know, is that we know nothing: “We don’t yet know how easily it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, or how well available vaccines and medications work against it” the CDC reports. There have been speculations based off of the current numbers collected by Omicron that it may spread more easily than any other variant, including Delta. Omicron was first detected in South Africa last year and has since spread across the globe. What some officials have been fearing is that current vaccines may not be as preventive against Omicron as they were against the other variants. 

Currently, the U.S. holds the record for the most COVID-19 cases as well as the most deaths related to the original virus. With 70,468,038 COVID-19 cases documented and 865,116 deaths. These two numbers only pertain to the original COVID-19 variant and do not account for the more recent cases and deaths that Omicron and Delta have caused due to a lack of data and information. Only 63% of Americans are fully vaccinated. 37% of Americans are still unvaccinated. These are the same people that have been crowding the hospitals, spreading the virus and variants to those around them, and have been causing the immense rise in cases during the first three weeks of 2022. The U.S. also currently holds the highest daily average of cases in 2022 at 713,007.

 

What are we supposed to do as members of our community?

The CDC encourages us to get vaccinated, as “COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death”. Multiple studies done by the CDC and WHO have shown that vaccines help to save lives and prevent further transmission. Everyone that is five years and older are recommended to protect themselves against COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated. As well as recommending everyone 16 years of age and older to get their booster shot after completing the primary COVID-19 vaccinations. 

The CDC and WHO both strongly recommend wearing a mask “in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission, regardless of vaccination status”. N95 and KN95 masks are the only two masks that meet international standards. They have proven to be the most effective against COVID-19 and variant transmission. However, some companies and brands will falsely market their masks as being K95 and KN95 masks. Cloth and paper masks do not prevent transmission against Delta and Omicron, as new studies have shown. Please use this information from the CDC to differentiate between a safe mask and a cheaply made one. 

So please, for your community, for your family, for your friends: get vaccinated and wear your f***ing mask. 

Prue Love

Northern Arizona '25

Prue is a first-year Sociology major and Photography, International Communications, and Asian Studies triple minor at Northern Arizona University. She hopes to use aspects of her major and minors to work in the journalism industry. She is currently an editor for Her Campus and a freelance graphic designer & artist. When she's not writing or doesn't have her eyes glued to a screen you can usually find her knitting, reading, or snowboarding.
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