As scientists race to comprehend this new wave of the pandemic, facts is proliferating just about as quickly as the virus by itself, and it can be difficult to retain up. Here’s guidance from authorities on how to utilize the most recent information about Omicron to your each day lifestyle:

How infectious is Omicron?

Omicron is by considerably the most infectious coronavirus variant and 1 of the fastest-spreading viruses ever identified. To start with detected in late November, it traveled the earth within just a person month, infecting tens of millions. Some authorities have known as it the 2nd-most infectious ailment just after measles, although a single medical professional calculated that it transmits even more quickly than measles.

What transpired in Massachusetts illustrates Omicron’s lightning pace. Scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard identified powerful proof of Omicron in 45 per cent of samples taken Dec. 13 through 16. By the upcoming week, that was up to 80 %, and has now achieved 95 %.

Is it harmless to go grocery shopping? Dine indoors at a cafe? Participate in sports indoors? Go skiing?

The respond to to all these questions is: It relies upon. “There are gradations of secure,” stated Dr. Megan L. Ranney, an emergency doctor and tutorial dean for the Brown College School of General public Well being.

You have to look at your have amount of safety, the environment you are heading to, and irrespective of whether there are vulnerable men and women in your residence. If you are vaccinated and have obtained a booster shot, you are really not likely to get severely sick. But you could even now capture COVID-19 and unfold it to other individuals.

Ranney outlets for groceries, but with a higher-high quality mask (see underneath for information). She does not consume at eating places indoors, for the reason that that needs getting rid of the mask. She lets her kids, who are vaccinated, play indoor athletics, but only in locations with fantastic air flow and where everyone is masked. “But it’s not hazard-cost-free,” she notes.

Eve Wittenberg, senior investigation scientist in the Middle for Health and fitness Choice Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan University of Public Wellness, endorses hoping to continue to keep it very simple.

Are you vaccinated, boosted, and putting on a high-quality mask? Are you absolutely free of any health-related circumstances that set you at high possibility? Can the exact be reported about the persons you stay with?

If the remedy is sure to all these concerns, then sure, go to the grocery retailer — your danger is small, she explained.

But if there are unvaccinated little ones in your residence or you dwell with an aged or immunocompromised man or woman, you may need to have an added layer of safety. You may possibly want to choose for curbside pickup, to enjoy it secure.

Yet another vital thought is the benefit of the activity you are thinking of, Wittenberg stated. Some factors are really worth the threat, these types of as going to spouse and children for the holidays.

In excess of the training course of each 7 days, decide on and choose amid the hazards you acquire, and “take the pitfalls the place there is a huge payoff,” Wittenberg advises. If heading to the grocery shop is seriously crucial to you, probably get on-line from CVS. “It’s a balancing act of . . . generating selections in between which are the types that have significant gain and which kinds you can do with out,” she stated.

For some individuals, on the net determination apps can be practical. Ranney endorses, made by the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health and fitness, which she started. The system, which has been modified to account for Omicron’s better transmissibility, asks a handful of questions about the action you are scheduling and charges its possibility stage. Then it invitations you to lessen your hazard by answering such queries as no matter if you and the folks you’re with will be vaccinated and masked. The application then displays a dial exhibiting no matter whether your possibility is small, moderate, or significant.

Wittenberg thinks such applications are “nifty, enjoyable, fantastic in principle” but cautions that some people may possibly obtain them demanding. “It does all the math for you, but it will make you hyperaware of the 72 things [that will] make a decision whether you are heading to die subsequent week,” she stated. And these applications really don’t help with spur-of-the-second decisions, these as whether to operate into a shop to grab a few of items.

But what about snowboarding? Why are we listening to about outbreaks at resorts?

The transmission nearly definitely didn’t come about on the slopes. As with parades and the Sturgis bike rally, the indoor activities that accompany these occasions are in which the virus is most very likely to distribute.

Ranney suspects that gatherings in the ski lodge and following-ski events are to blame. “You arrive off a slope, go into the lodge, get a cup of incredibly hot chocolate, get a beer,” she mentioned. Those are functions that simply cannot transpire although donning a mask. “There’s not anything magical about currently being in a area of ingesting that can make the virus end transmitting,” Ranney said.

Do masks do the job versus Omicron?

All variants of the coronavirus transmit in the similar way, by traveling by the air, and masks can retain the virus at bay. But the change with Omicron is that contaminated men and women carry better quantities of the virus, and it attaches to the mucus membranes additional readily. For improved protection, Ranney is urging people today to “up their mask game” by wearing professional medical-quality KF94, KN95, or N95 masks.

“I would somewhat that a person put on a surgical mask or cloth mask than no mask,” she claimed. But to secure in opposition to Omicron, a harder barrier is preferable. Sadly there are many very poor-excellent knock-offs on the market, so Ranney endorses purchasing as a result of, a nonprofit that sells professional medical-grade masks to consumers.

Do quick at-household antigen tests detect Omicron?

Certainly, but with some caveats. The Food stuff and Drug Administration has been evaluating antigen tests and claimed past 7 days, “Early details suggests that antigen tests do detect the Omicron variant but could have reduced sensitivity.”

But new investigation implies these checks may well not detect coronavirus early in the study course of an infection. Specialists emphasize that the tests are even now worthy of applying, but if you’ve been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 or have indicators, really don’t suppose that a negative exam presents you a absolutely free go. You may want to keep house and check yet again in a day or two.

Can I continue to get long COVID if I’m vaccinated and boosted?

Sadly, it seems so. Vaccinated men and women who have experienced mild, breakthrough cases of COVID-19 have developed extended COVID, a syndrome in which signs this sort of as memory decline and exhaustion carry on for months after a COVID an infection. But scientific tests vary on irrespective of whether or not vaccines cut down the likelihood of developing very long COVID.

Dr. Jason H. Maley, director of Beth Israel Clinical Center’s Crucial Sickness and COVID-19 Survivorship Plan, said his clinic has “certainly ongoing to see extended COVID with breakthrough infections and it is develop into obvious that sad to say people are at possibility of extended COVID in that scenario.”

With Omicron’s rapidly rise and capacity to infect vaccinated people, the figures of people with very long COVID could soar.

“We foresee that extended COVID will be equally popular among people infected with Omicron,” Maley stated in an e-mail. “We do not have company info on this for the reason that it’s just much too early in the course of the recent Omicron surge to know long-expression results.”

The risk of lengthy COVID is yet another purpose why vaccinated people today should really continue to don masks and get other precautions. Even while Omicron seems to develop milder disease than other variants, COVID-19 continues to be a illness you don’t want to get.

Felice J. Freyer can be attained at [email protected]. Adhere to her on Twitter @felicejfreyer.