Omicron: What Happens Next?

By: Richard A. Marfuggi, MD, DMH, Commissioner of the American Medical Association Foundation.
Steve Brozak, DMH, Chief Executive Officer of WBB Securities.

January 2022

Omicron may be the latest challenge the world faces in dealing with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the one responsible for COVID-19), but it does not condemn us to relive the horrors of March 2020, when COVID-19 first appeared. We have learned, sometimes painfully, quite a lot about the virus, its mode of action, and what constitutes both effective and non-effective means of dealing with it. That said, there is much more to learn and to address.

COVID Is Here to Stay

To many, virology and public health have been areas of study relegated to scientists, researchers, health care professionals, and departments of health. Most people deem both areas to be important, but they have considered them of little import in their day-to-day lives. But because COVID is here to stay, we would all do well to become more familiar with virology and public health. As of this writing, each of us would be hard-pressed to find a single individual who has not been affected by the pandemic. In the United States alone, we know of more than 840,000 deaths attributed to COVID. The actual number is likely much higher. Add to that the disruption of our economy, our schools, our social interactions, and our sense of personal well-being, and we quickly realize that no one is spared.

This report attempts to explain some of what we know about COVID-19, what we might expect from it, and what we might do to mitigate, or ideally prevent, its most harmful effects. We begin with a discussion of the South African experience, then move to a primer on virology, immunology, and the meaning of infection. We conclude with strategies for mitigation and prevention considered vital by most public health authorities.

Full report