Omicron in red with a hypodermic needle and vial in sillouette

On January 12, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters that, as of that date, the seven-day daily average number of new COVID-19 cases was up by 47% from the previous week (via White House). This seven-day new case average is more than double what it was exactly one year ago, per The Washington Post. And so it appears that the Omicron variant is quickly bringing COVID-19 to a much wider audience.

Omicron was first detected as a mutation by scientists in Botswana in early November 2021 (via The Lancet). Over several weeks, infections attributable to the mutated virus spread much more rapidly than any other prior strain of the novel coronavirus had thus far. The variant was confirmed to have reached the U.S. on December 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By late December, the U.S. infection rate was already soaring. But how is that possible when nearly 63% of the U.S. is fully vaccinated? Here is what you need to know about the highly contagious omicron variant.

model of three covid-19 mutations
crowd of young people in masks
Man with hand on head, holding tissue
a woman giving herself an at-home covid test
woman with a sore throat
A scientist wearing glasses giving the side-eye
medical professional, sitting down, exhausted