Omicron causes record COVID numbers in US

Chloe Chapel

As school begins, a new variant of COVID, Omicron, is spreading like a wildfire across the U.S.

Omicron has caused COVID cases in the U.S. to reach record highs. 

On Jan. 10, 1.3 million new COVID cases were reported, beating the previous record of over a million only a week before, according to NBC. 

The record highs can be attributed to Omicron’s high transmission rate.

According to NPR, Omicron is about 2.7 to 3.7 times more infectious than the Delta variant.

Plus, Omicron has different symptoms than previous variants.

According to Medical News Today, some of the most common symptoms of Omicron are runny nose, diarrhea, cough, congestion, fever and chills. 

Some of the most common symptoms associated with previous variants such as loss of taste and smell and shortness of breath aren’t as prevalent with Omicron, according to the CDC. 

Since Omicron is a different beast than Delta, it is handled in drastically different ways. 

The U.S. government is trying to fight Omicron by making at-home COVID test kits more accessible. 

The government is making private insurers cover up to eight at-home COVID tests per month and opening a website from which you can receive free at-home tests, according to The New York Times. 

By making at-home tests more accessible, the hope is Omicron’s peak will come sooner rather than later. 

According to The Washington Post, Omicron’s peak is expected in late January or early February because the virus will run out of people to infect. 

Many schools have delayed the start of school or have gone completely online for the first couple of weeks to get past the peak. 

However, ULM announced in a school-wide email sent by President Ronald Berry that school will begin like normal and existing protocols such as social distancing, wearing masks and following proper hand hygiene will be continued. 

Because ULM is not taking drastic measures like other universities to fight Omicron, many students were nervous to return to school. 

Joseph Pratt, a pharmacy doctorate student, said he does not feel this is an acceptable way to handle Omicron because he is being put at risk and feels punished as a pharmacy student. 

“They are putting students at risk and the students that get infected are being put behind,” Pratt said. “For the pharmacy school, if you’ve contracted COVID you can’t come to class and they don’t give you zoom information […] so I feel like I’m being punished because I cannot follow along with my classes in real-time.”

Pratt said he wishes more protocols such as “offering online options for those who want it, giving out more masks and separating the library floors by college” would help fight Omicron. 

Some students don’t share Pratt’s fear because the protocols he wishes for are already practiced within their college. 

Kinsley Hill, a sophomore criminal justice major, said her professors are taking extra measures such as going to hybrid-style classes and strictly enforcing existing protocols, so she feels safe.

“Professors will help in any way they can […] some of my professors are doing hybrid and will completely understand if you miss a class to get tested just to be on the safe side,” Hill said. “Anywhere you go is going to have someone with the virus, as long as you are following CDC guidelines like ULM is enforcing, then we should be okay.”