Public Health Science Expert Julie Swann on the Emergence of the Omicron Variant of COVID-19

BALTIMORE, MD, December 6, 2021 – New audio is available for media use featuring public health science expert Julie Swann on the emergence of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus and its impact on individuals, what is known, what has yet to be learned, and what mitigation protocols should be in place for this and future variants. 

All sound should be attributed to Julie Swann of North Carolina State University. She is Adjunct Professor in the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and she is co-founder of the Center for Health & Humanitarian Systems (CHHS). This is one of the first Interdisciplinary Research Centers on the Georgia Tech campus.


Question 1: What do we know about the Omicron variant to date?

Time Cue: 00:36, Soundbite Duration: 00:21

Transcription: “The Omicron variant has a lot of mutations, actually quite a bit more than we’ve seen on the Delta variant that previously came through. We also have some early evidence that suggests that the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, and we know that it is in a number of countries worldwide.” 


Question 2: What don’t we yet know about the Omicron variant to date and what is being done to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible?

Time Cue: 01:02, Soundbite Duration: 01:20 

Transcription: “There are a lot of things that we still don’t know yet about the Omicron variant. We’re learning more every day about it. We don’t know, for example, whether it causes severe disease or not. We don’t know the extent to which it may be able to evade existing immunity, either through vaccines or previous disease. We don’t know how widely it has spread so far or how transmissible it is. There’s a lot that’s being done to determine more information about the Omicron variant. Scientists are using laboratory techniques to get an initial understanding of whether the variant can escape immunity brought on from the antibodies brought on from vaccine. But the best data for that is really real world data, looking at people who’ve been vaccinated and not vaccinated, and looking at the spread of the disease and hospitalizations and things like that. So, that kind of analysis will take a little bit more time. But every day, there’s a little bit of new information about how wide it’s spread, how transmissible it might be, or what disease it can cause.”


Question 3: What can people do to minimize their own personal risks with regard to the Omicron variant?

Time Cue: 02:27, Soundbite Duration: 00:56

Transcription: “The most important thing that people can do is get vaccinated, and if they are already fully vaccinated, they can get a booster shot if it’s been an appropriate length of time since their vaccination. They can also make sure that others in their household are vaccinating, including children aged five to 11. The second thing that individuals in households can do to minimize personal risk is to wear masks any time they’re sharing the same air with people not in their household, and they can consider getting tested when they’ve been engaging with people or interacting in a masked environment. These actions can not only protect an individual in their household, but they can also make things better for the entire community by reducing the chance that our hospitals are overwhelmed.” 


Question 4: What are the larger and more long-term steps society needs to do in managing this variant and in anticipation of future variants?

Time Cue: 03:28, Soundbite Duration: 00:54 

Transcription: “There will be other variants. It’s essential that we have data systems that are tracking the variants that are arising, and sharing that information widely so that countries, states, cities, counties, companies, universities, schools can all take action. We need to make sure that we’re investing in our infrastructure for testing, and that we’re sequencing enough samples so that we know when a variant has arisen and what some of the differences are with previous strains. The most important thing of all is to get people vaccinated, not only in our own communities, but really worldwide, and that is what will reduce the risk of future variants.”

Public Health Science Expert Julie Swann on the Emergence of the Omicron Variant of COVID-19

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