What you need to know about Omicron and the current COVID-19 winter surge (outdated)

Note: This page was last updated Jan 4 at 9:35pm ET. To get the latest data on COVID-19 rates in your community, visit the CDC’s webpage here. 

Since the COVID-19 variant, Omicron, emerged in late 2021, cases of COVID-19 have spiked dramatically across the globe, including the United States, and we’re in the midst of a significant winter surge. 

Every day and week, individual states and the entire country are breaking case records, and understaffed hospitals in many states are at capacity. Hundreds of thousands of children are going back to remote learning.   

NYTimes graph showing the rise in COVID cases in US and around the World

Graphic from the NY Times

But there is good news, too: the vaccines are working extremely well, and they have prevented an estimated 1.1 million additional deaths in the United States. The Omicron variant, while more transmissible than other COVID-19 variants, appears to cause fewer people who get infected to require hospitalization. 

And hospitalizations, a more important metric than cases, are not rising at the same level as cases. 

Unfortunately, hospitals are still reaching capacity quickly due to the incredibly high number of cases and staffing shortages due to infections among staff.  Thankfully, millions of people are getting boosted, a critical protection against the current winter surge.  

While we are in this surge, safety precautions like minimizing large gatherings, masking, frequent testing, and washing your hands are important safeguards,  alongside getting vaccinated and boosted.  

This surge is also a reminder that the pandemic cannot be defeated in the United States alone. A global effort grounded in equity is the only way to eliminate the threat of COVID-19.

Everyone focused on ending the pandemic still has the same job ahead of us: get as many people as possible vaccinated, especially our newly eligible 5-11 year olds, and encourage all eligible people to get their booster shot.

Share Vaccines.gov, the 1-800-232-0233 hotline and encourage folks to get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible.

More than 205 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated, with nearly 70 million boosted. This is tremendous progress from where we were at the beginning of 2021 but there are still too many communities where vaccination equity gaps remain.

The Made to Save coalition remains focused on going door to door, calling, and texting folks, alongside training vaccine ambassadors to have conversations grounded in empathy with unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people.  We also continue to encourage individuals to get booster shots as soon as they are eligible as we know that it offers the highest protection against severe disease and death.

We’ll defeat this pandemic together, one conversation, phone call, vaccine clinic and community at a time. Join us. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • I know a lot of vaccinated and boosted people who got COVID. Why should I get vaccinated?
    No vaccine provides full immunity from a virus, including the COVID-19 vaccines. However, there are very few cases of vaccinated individuals being hospitalized due to the virus, and over 1.1 million lives in the U.S. alone are estimated to have been saved before this winter surge thanks to the COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccines make you much less likely to get infected when you are exposed to the virus.  Even if you do get infected, the vaccines make you much less likely to get severely ill, need hospitalization, or die.  The vast majority of people in the hospital dying from COVID-19 right now are unvaccinated.
  • What is the Omicron COVID-19 variant?
    Omicron is a variant of COVID-19 first detected by South Africa’s leading researchers in late November, though the origins are unknown. Many variants of the virus have been detected so far, and the current winter surge is being fueled by both the Delta and Omicron variants in the United States.
  • What is a “variant” of COVID-19? As Johns Hopkins University notes, ​variants of viruses occur when there is a change or mutation to the virus’s genes. Mutations in viruses, including the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic, are neither new nor unexpected. For example, because flu viruses change frequently, doctors recommend getting a new flu vaccine every year.
  • Am I safe from Omicron if I’m fully vaccinated and boosted? Yes, the best way to protect yourself from the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and boosted. While breakthrough cases are common at this point in the surge, getting vaccinated and boosted prevents death and hospitalization in the vast majority of cases. Additionally, people admitted to the hospital during this surge are overwhelmingly unvaccinated.

Note: This page was last updated Jan 4 at 9:35pm ET. Made to Save will do its best to update it frequently as news emerges. The information here has been aggregated from the CDC and other trusted medical resources and is not medical advice. If you have additional questions we encourage you to speak to a medical provider.