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Wakeup call from yet another variant

Another gigantic Covid question mark is looming over the world. A variant named for the Greek alphabet letter omicron is scrambling scientists to assess its threat level and governments to close the doors to foreign travelers.

Haven't we seen this movie before? Twenty-one months ago a COVID-19 viral strain came on like a runaway train. The country went into lockdown and hundreds of thousands died in a few months. People are still traumatized by loss of loved ones, jobs, housing and normalcy. The thought of losing or limiting yet another holiday season is demoralizing.

But no, we haven't seen this particular scene, because this time millions of people in the United States and hundreds of millions around the world have gotten vaccinated. Many have already had a booster shot. Children are getting the protection of the vaccine for the first time. Even the most cautious scientific experts are saying that vaccination will most likely be at least partially effective, meaning fewer serious infections and fatalities. And that's if the omicron variant even takes hold, which is not a foregone conclusion.

Scientists will need at least another week to evaluate the variant, but until they tell us more, sound advice would be to hope that it fizzles but prepare in case it comes on strong.

In fact, that advice has not changed at all, and the greatest current threat in the United States and elsewhere is still the delta variant, not omicron. Delta is pushing the percentage of positive Covid screening tests and the number of hospitalizations higher. By the start of this week, the statewide daily test positivity rate was nudging 6 percent, the highest in almost a year. New London was on the list of Connecticut cities with the highest percentage of unvaccinated residents and the most cases per 100,000 people, according to the Associated Press.

It should not need to be explained that cause and effect are at work in this scenario. If the cities with the lowest percentage of vaccinated people have the highest percentage of infection, that makes both the problem and the solution as clear as can be.

Indeed, just before the experts identified the new variant in southern Africa, Gov. Ned Lamont urged Connecticut residents over 18 to get booster shots in light of the delta surge. How many times have we seen that part of the movie?

Lamont said again, as he has over and over, that Connecticut residents need to be vaccinated and anyone over 18 whose most recent shot was six months ago should get a booster. This week the CDC used the same wording, changing a "may" to a "should" for all.

Anyone who is not vaccinated or is ready for a booster should go to a pharmacy and take care of it. Or ask Ledge Light Health District https://llhd.org/coronavirus-covid-19-situation/%20 or Uncas Health District https://uncashd.org/covid-19/ where to get shots.

How serious and how contagious the omicron variant is, compared to alpha and delta and lesser known variants, is still a question. Connecticut's Department of Public Health is monitoring for the variant in designated genomic sequencing labs. When omicron shows itself here, the state will be as prepared as it can be to react. Meanwhile, health officials continue to recommend the general populace be ready, too: masks in indoor public spaces, proper hygiene and social distancing, getting tested, and staying home if sick. It is important to be extra careful around older people and those who are immune-compromised.

If this were a remake of an old disaster movie, we would already know the dramatic conclusion. The monster would go down in flames or fall off a skyscraper, and the citizens would be cheering in the streets. There is no scientific reason — yet — why people can't do the patriotic thing, the homeland defense thing, the sane thing, and get themselves vaccinated. Defeat the monster. If they do not, this movie could just keep on looping as more virus variants take advantage of unvaccinated host humans to develop and spread.

Come on, people. Come on, New London. Get the vaccine. Get the booster. Be the heroes of the latest wave.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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