St. Paul infectious disease physician calls omicron a ‘concern’

Dr. Peter Bornstein, a physician at St. Paul Infectious Disease Associates, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the new COVID-19 omicron variant is something that should be taken seriously and watched closely.

“It’s definitely not a cause for panic, but it is a variant of concern and not a variant of panic,” said Bornstein. “For all we know it already could be circulating in the U.S. and we just don’t know it because we have not been looking for it yet. And, as you can see, they’re looking for it in Europe and they’ve been finding it and so I guess it would not be surprising to see a few cases of omicron here in the U.S. in the next couple weeks.”

Bornstein said after scientists find out exactly how transmissible the omicron variant is, they will focus on how well current vaccines hold up against the new variant because early indications show it has many more mutations than the recent, very transmissible delta variant.

“They will definitely want to know how transmissible omicron is but they will also want to find out quickly if it is going to cause a problem for all of us who’ve been vaccinated,” said Bornstein. “And that is really something we just don’t know yet but should find out in the coming weeks.”

Bornstein said, even though there has only been a relatively small sample size so far in South Africa and Europe, the early information has shown that the new omicron variant does not appear to cause infected people to get sicker than those who’ve contracted other forms of the COVID-19 virus.

“It is quite possible our current vaccines do not hold up well against the omicron variant,” said Bornstein. “But, you also have to remember the current vaccines were not designed for either the alpha or delta variants and those vaccines have worked against alpha and delta.”