ATLANTA — The declining number of COVID cases nationwide is generating optimism, but health professionals are busy explaining why the situation makes us vulnerable for new variants.
“We are still in a very intense period and should not be lulled into a false sense of security,” said Dr. Jayne Morgan, Clinical Director of the COVID Task Force at Piedmont Healthcare.
Delta and omicron have been the most noteworthy variants of the coronavirus pandemic. Both have proven to be far more contagious than the original strain.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, warned the world is ripe for new variants of the coronavirus.
“There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out and how the acute phase could end,” said Ghebreyesus. “But it’s dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame. Globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.”
As long as the virus continues to spread there is the risk of another prominent variant, Morgan said.
You have to look at the pandemic as a worldwide problem and consider vaccine access.
“We still have 86 countries that haven’t met the minimum criteria set by the World Health Organization,” said Morgan. “We have Africa that has 85% of the entire continent that is yet to receive a first dose, so the World Health Organization is right to be concerned.”
According to the CDC, the omicron variant was first detected in South Africa in November. By early December it was spreading in the U.S.
“We are all interconnected,” Morgan said. “We cannot have countries and continents that are unvaccinated and then declare ourselves out of the pandemic. It doesn’t work that way.”
Some parts of the world, like Germany and Brazil, have seen cases climb in recent weeks, according to data gathered by the New York Times.
“All of those infections provide opportunities for this virus to replicate and then form mutations and for these mutations to form other variants,” Morgan said. “Millions of opportunities.”
Morgan said while scientists are working to identify new variants, one can develop and spread for days or weeks before it is discovered.