The Atlantic Daily: Omicron Could Be Bad, or Really Bad—Or Maybe Good

Delta anxiety, meet Omicron anxiety. If you’re feeling spooked by the sudden rise of the latter, remember that our tools for combatting the coronavirus are much more advanced than they were in the pandemic’s dark early days.

Every discovery of a fast-spreading new variant sets off another wave of uncertainty, and this time, Omicron is to blame.

Although it’s true that we know frustratingly little about this new variant (other than that it’s hereand here, and here), today we understand a lot more about the coronavirus generally—how it travels, how vaccines work against it—than we did a year ago. We can rely on what we’ve learned as we prepare for Omicron.

  • Here are the best- and worst- case scenarios. If we find out that Omicron causes milder disease than Delta and is more transmissible, that could actually be great news for the world, my colleague Rachel Gutman points out.
  • Yes, boosters will still work. Eventually vaccine makers may need to adjust their formulas, because of this variant or a different one. But for now, an imperfect option can still be a great one: “Sometimes, dips in immunization quality can be rescued with a little extra quantity” provided by a booster, Katherine J. Wu explains.
Black and white photo of people standing next to their suitcases, with their backs to the camera, outside an airport.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / Getty)

The news in three sentences:

(1) President Joe Biden announced new pandemic measures in response to Omicron. (2) Germany imposed more stringent restrictions on unvaccinated people. (3) Congress will attempt to avert a government shutdown before tomorrow’s deadline, as some Senate Republicans still frustrated by Biden's vaccine mandate threaten to delay a compromise.

Today’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Meet the people turning leisure time into a productivity challenge.

A break from the news:

Human error is often cited as the most common cause of car accidents. That’s a myth.