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Scientists predict what happens next with the omicron variant

What will happen next with the omicron variant? Here’s what experts have to say

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Nurse Stefan gets ready to tend to an intubated COVID-19 patient in Westerstede, northwest Germany.

Nurse Stefan gets ready before entering an isolation room with an intubated COVID-19 patient at the intensive care unit at the Westerstede Clinical Center, a military-civilian hospital in Westerstede, northwest Germany, on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.

Martin Meissner, Associated Press

Multiple scientists and experts are weighing on what Americans should expect from the omicron variant of the coronavirus over the next few weeks.

Dr. Stephen Goldstein, professor at the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Utah, told Salon that cases will rise in the next few weeks to peak levels.

  • “Based on data from South Africa and Europe we can expect a significant increase in case numbers here in the U.S. in the next several weeks,” he said. “It is possible to likely that peak cases numbers will exceed last winter’s peak.”

Dr. Monica Gandhi, infectious disease doctor and professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, told Salon that omicron is “more transmissible and will cause a wave of new infections.”

  • However, “there is now evidence that Omicron is less severe than previous strains,” she said.
  • It’s unclear “if this is because of increasing cellular immunity in the population in December 2021 versus an inherent property of the strain that makes it less virulent,” she said.

It’s clear from these comments that the omicron variant is spreading and will continue to do so as we move through winter. It’s unclear if the strain is less virulent — meaning it causes less severe symptoms on its own — or if people are more immune to the coronavirus by now, creating less severe symptoms.

Either way, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently predicted a new surge of omicron cases will impact the U.S. by January 2022, according to The Washington Post.

  • The variant is already spreading in the U.S. Cases could likely peak in January, especially after holiday gatherings wrap up.