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As of this writing, the United States has just confirmed its first case of COVID-19 attributed to the Omicron variant. Seeing how there was a time when we were saying the same thing about the SARS-CoV-2 virus in general—and then the Delta variant—let’s assume many more are on the horizon. The World Health Organization has called it a “variant of concern,” at least partly due to the fact that it has a higher number of mutations than previous variants. So, what does this all mean for urgent care? Makers of the COVID-19 vaccines are trying to figure what level of protection, if any, the existing formulations will offer against Omicron. We do know that it’s been effective against other types of COVID-19 infection, though, so it’s essential to continue offering COVID-19 vaccines to all eligible patients, and to offer booster shots to those who completed their course of vaccination at least 6 months ago. The U.S. just imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and neighboring countries, but that doesn’t mean patients who’ve traveled internationally before the ban can’t present with an Omicron variant case. If patients do present with symptoms of COVID-19, and especially if they test positive, ask whether they’ve traveled abroad recently. South Africa has seen the most cases, but other nations that have seen cases in the double digits include Botswana, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. Then get in touch with your local and state health departments.

Just When You Thought You Had Your Pandemic Processes Down, Here Comes the Omicron Variant