Mayo Clinic infectious disease physician: Omicron variant ‘concerning’ but no reason for panic

Mayo Clinic infectious disease physician Dr. John O’Horo, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the COVID-19 omicron variant is "concerning," but also said there is still a lot of testing to be done before a much more detailed assessment can be made. However, there is no reason for people to panic.

"So, what we know about omicron at this point is very little, but what is important for us to know here in Minnesota is that there have been no cases in the U.S. yet," O’Horo said. "We can expect to see in the two weeks or so some initial data coming in on the vaccines and how they perform against the omicron variant because that’s what the vaccine manufacturers have promised."

O’Horo said in his professional opinion, the most important next step for people during the pandemic with emerging variants is to get vaccinated.

"We are still in the middle of a pretty profound surge with the delta variant right now," O’Horo said. "So, the best thing that people can do to keep themselves, and their loved ones, protected is to get the vaccine and take as many precautions as possible."

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm issued a statement outlining what MDH is doing right now as the agency prepares for a possible reporting of the omicron variant here in the near future.

"Minnesota health officials are closely tracking international reports of a new COVID-19 variant, called Omicron (B.1.1.529). The World Health Organization has named Omicron a variant of concern. Scientists are working hard to learn more about its transmissibility and virulence and how vaccines may protect people against it.

"At this point, no Omicron cases have been reported in Minnesota or the United States. Fortunately, Minnesota has built one of the nation’s strongest genomic sequencing and variant surveillance systems. If an Omicron variant infection is found in Minnesota, we will share that information as soon as possible.

"New variants are expected to occur. The most important thing that we can do to prepare is to ensure that every one five years of age and up is vaccinated, and those eligible for boosters receive booster doses."