An informed guide to the pandemic, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment.


Living with Omicron

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the new Omicron variants, but twhat is clear is clear: they are contagious and  and spreads quickly.

These variants has been detected in all states.

Early evidence suggests that the Omicron variant can evade some amount of immunity, from both vaccination and previous infection. That, coupled with its breakneck speed, means that infections in vaccinated people will most likely become increasingly common in the coming weeks. Large gatherings may supercharge this trend.


So how should you approach life in the age of Omicron? While the guidance will certainly change as we learn more, here’s an initial guide to navigating the next phase of the pandemic.

What do we know for sure?

The basics haven’t changed. Even in this murky in-between moment where there’s a lot of unknowns about Omicron, the old rules to lower your risk still apply: Reduce your contact with other people, especially in crowded indoor settings; wear a mask, and upgrade it; use home tests before gathering; and get vaccinated, with a booster if possible.

What has changed is that these Omicron variants are better at sidestepping some of the protection that vaccines give us. All available data indicate that vaccinated individuals have much better outcomes than the unvaccinated. VACCINES SAVE LIVES.

What if I am vaccinated?

While Omicron seems able to thwart some amount of immunity, boosters seem to do a good job of preventing infection. Even if you get sick with a breakthrough infection, data shows that the vaccines still provide solid protection against severe illness and death.

Should I change my plans for holiday gatherings?

There isn’t a simple answer to this question. That said, experts offer one simple tip that can help you figure it out: Plan your event around the most vulnerable person in the room.”

Think about the things you would need to do to protect an older grandparent, for example, and that will give you an idea of whether the event should go forward with extra precautions, be scaled back or canceled.

You can lower your risk by asking that everyone get a booster, if eligible, and take a rapid test a few hours before the event. Focus on ventilation, and ask everyone to scale back their social activities before the event.

 Family gatherings, especially now as we head into our third year of pandemic life, are really important. If everyone is willing to do what’s needed to protect the most vulnerable, you can lower risk and gather more safely.”

What if I feel sick?

Get tested. It’s the only way you’re going to know if what you’re feeling is a cold or Covid. It’s also important to know so that you can inform other people whom you might have exposed, should you test positive.

Now more than ever, it’s a good idea to keep a few rapid tests at home so you can test yourself. If you do test positive with an antigen test, it’s a good idea to follow up with a more sensitive PCR test.

I tested positive. Now what?

The guidance is the same for Omicron variants as Omicron.  If you’re vaccinated, the C.D.C. says you should isolate and rest. If you live with other people, you should stay in a specific “sick room” or area, and use a separate bathroom, if available. Wear a mask and don’t share dishes.

The 10-day isolation period begins the first full day after your symptoms develop. If you test positive, but don’t have symptoms, the 10-day clock starts the day after you test positive. If you develop symptoms later, reset the clock. At any point if you have an emergency warning sign, like breathing trouble, go to the hospital.


What if I test positive away from home?

The responsible thing to do is to isolate for 10 days, but whether you’ll be forced to do so depends on where you’re traveling.

In the U.S., it’s mostly up to the individual to decide how to proceed. States, airlines, airports or most other forms of transportation do not require a negative coronavirus test from domestic travelers, with a few exceptions.

If you test positive while traveling internationally, the rules will depend on where you are. Some places won’t let you board a plane, while other places might require you to stay in a government hospital for more than 10 days.


If you’re traveling abroad, here’s some advice: Learn the local rules and pack as if you’re going to get stuck.