Americans Are Already Over Omicron


https://view.newsletters.time.com/?qs=5b1b0210a9c0c6052e991fca0f304c50728dc4fa7e9bd80a730492ab7976421ba3ed7c38d7503d4b37e904c3ff5e8bfe48500d64b3838149189f24c10f3605bc9f361596380fa0c3fa7c7f3217d03d57

Most Americans have heard of the Omicron variant, few are very familiar |  Ipsos

Americans seem to be greeting the Omicron variant with a collective “eh,” according to new polling data from Axios/Ipsos.

Compared to other COVID-19 strains, Omicron seems to be extra transmissible and possibly more likely to cause breakthrough infections, at least based on preliminary data. As of Dec. 8, 22 U.S. states had reported at least one case related to the variant. But despite the early panic about the variant, most people surveyed by Axios/Ipsos in early December said they weren’t going to make big changes to their behavior. Specifically, the poll found that just:

  • 33% of surveyed U.S. adults are likely to stop dining inside restaurants
  • 28% are likely to stop gathering with people outside their households
  • 23% are likely to cancel holiday travel plans
  • 13% are likely to stop going to work in person

It’s hard to blame people. At this point in the pandemic, it’s safe to say everyone is tired and ready to be done with COVID-19. Plus, 60% of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated, and thus, based on what we’ve seen so far, largely protected from the worst the virus can do. People who have received a booster dose are in an even better position, given early reports that boosters hold up well against Omicron.

Americans are also, to some degree, doing what public figures told them to do. President Joe Biden called Omicron “a cause for concern—but not a cause for panic.” And many health officials have jumped to assure the public that we are not going back to square one, thanks to the protection offered by vaccines.

The caveat, however, is that we’re still learning about Omicron. Early indications suggest the variant does not cause more severe disease than other variants, but it’s too soon to say that definitively. If it does turn out to be highly contagious, good at outsmarting vaccines and capable of causing serious disease, we may have to return to some precautions, for the sake of individuals and our overburdened health care system. The variant is already taking root in Europe, which may be a harbinger of what’s to come here.

The good news? The Axios/Ipsos poll did find that most Americans are still willing to step up and take protective measures when necessary. More than 60% said they were likely to go back to (or continue) always masking in public, and almost 70% said they’d support businesses requiring customers to wear masks.

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