Study: Omicron variant may help to ward off more severe delta

A new study out of South Africa is suggesting that if you have had the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, you may be better protected against the more severe delta variant of the disease.

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The study, which is awaiting peer review, may hold some hope for a more manageable course of the virus.

While the omicron variant is likely to spread quickly in the next few weeks, the study’s findings suggest it may offer protection against the more virulent delta version of the virus.

“Omicron is likely to push delta out,” said Alex Sigal, a virus expert at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, who led the new study.

“Maybe pushing delta out is actually a good thing, and we’re looking at something we can live with more easily and that will disrupt us less than the previous variants.”

Even though the study has just been published, other scientists are seeing similar outcomes.

Nathan Grubaugh, a public health researcher at the Yale School of Public Health, told The New York Times that he sees the same pattern in Connecticut.

“We are seeing omicron exponentially rise while delta cases are falling,” he said. “This suggests to me that omicron is outcompeting delta for susceptible individuals, leaving them less susceptible to delta in the aftermath and driving down delta cases.”

The delta variant became the most prominent version of the virus beginning last spring. The omicron variant was first reported in early November.

An early study by the same team showed that current vaccines were not as effective against the omicron variant as they have been against the delta variant.

However, the omicron variant appears to produce less severe symptoms for those who contract it but were vaccinated with at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Two British studies back up that research, suggesting that the omicron variant may be milder than the delta version.

COVID-19 cases in the U.S. increased by about 60% this week, the vast majority being from the omicron variant, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday at a White House COVID-19 briefing. Wednesday’s seven-day daily average of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. was about 240,400 cases a day, according to the CDC.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported a seven-day average of hospitalizations for confirmed and suspected COVID-19 at 77,840, an increase of about 14% since mid-December.

On Tuesday, New York reported 40,780 cases, Texas reported more than 17,000 cases and Ohio had more than 15,000 COVID-19 cases.