What Californians Should Know About Omicron

Chances are, the headlines about a disturbing new variant of the coronavirus will interrupt the blissful haze of your holiday weekend. ...


Chances are, the headlines about a disturbing new variant of the coronavirus will interrupt the blissful haze of your holiday weekend.

Within hours, the variant first identified in South Africa had received an official name (Omicron, confusedly), guest a wave of border closures and brings down the stock markets. The World Health Organization Friday called Omicron a “variant of concern”, the first variant of coronavirus to justify this designation from Delta.

To me, the developments seemed a bit too similar to the growing pandemic anxiety of Thanksgiving 2020. Turkey, pumpkin pie and, of course, a side of scary coronavirus news.

Still, there’s a lot we don’t know about Omicron, which makes it difficult to discern exactly how alarmed we should be. his imminent arrival in the USA. There is evidence that Omicron is particularly easy to transmit, but also that it only causes mild illness.

We’re probably going to learn a lot in the days to come – how contagious this new variant is, how sick it makes people, where it has already spread, and how vaccines limit infections.

As reported by my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli, scientists are rushing to answer this last and perhaps most important question.

Here’s why experts worry: Omicron has more than 30 mutations in its spike protein, the part of the virus that vaccines train the body to recognize and fight off. In other words, the highly mutated Omicron peak might be able to escape antibodies produced by a previous infection or vaccine.

While some experts believe existing vaccines will continue to prevent serious illness and death, even if more people are infected, vaccine makers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are already preparing to reformulate their shots to target Omicron. It will be at least a few weeks before we have a clearer picture, writes Apoorva.

If this sea of ​​unknowns is making you anxious, it may help to remind you that we know a lot more about the coronavirus than before. And the recommendations for staying safe from Omicron are similar to what officials have been saying for weeks as they try to avoid a wave of winter infections.

California officials reiterated on Sunday the need for all eligible people to be vaccinated and for those at high risk to request boosters. They also recommended wearing masks in indoor public places and getting tested if you have symptoms of Covid-19.

Due to news about Omicron, California is increasing Covid testing at airports for U.S. citizens and permanent residents from eight African countries. All other travelers from these countries are banned from entering the United States from today.

The state will also continue to test coronavirus samples to determine if Omicron is circulating here. Until there, 99.7 percent of specimens sequenced in California this month turned out to be the Delta variant.

“California is closely monitoring the new variant of Omicron, which has yet to arrive in California or the United States,” said Dr Tomás J. Aragón, state director of public health, on Sunday. “Vaccines continue to be our best way to get through the pandemic. “

For more:


Today’s advice comes from Eric Taylor, who lives in San Diego. He recommends the nearby town of Coronado:

“The Crown City is not really an island (although it’s often called that), but an isthmus, connected to Imperial Beach by the Silver Strand. I love taking the ferry from downtown San Diego to Ferry Landing in Coronado (runs hourly) and only costs $ 7 each way (you can bring a bike if you have one).

The Ferry Landing has a nice variety of restaurants and shops to enjoy. Both at Ferry Landing and elsewhere in Coronado, you can rent a bike for the day or just walk. Coronado restaurants have places for mom and pop like Clayton’s Coffee Shop, select chain restaurants (like Subway, Panera Bread, and Chipotle), Coronado Brewing Company, McP’s Irish Pub, and food abounds, including Del Coronado. .

The Del Coronado is undergoing renovations and a lot has already been done. It’s a great place to go to the beach to people watch, or dip your toes in the water. The Del also offers meals and drinks outside with a view of the beach open to the public.

There is at least one live theater and one regular cinema. The Vons grocery store and at least two pharmacies adorn the neighborhood. Plenty of hotel rooms for most budgets. There are also many public parks, many of which are shaded, for visitors to enjoy.

Many have expressed that it looks like a city lost in time, and some have dubbed it “Mayberry”. All in all a very pleasant place to visit. ”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.


Has your child been vaccinated against Covid-19? How was the experience? How has access to vaccines affected your vacation plans?

Share stories of your kids getting their coronavirus shots. Please include your child’s name, age and city of residence – and even a photo, if you wish.

Write to me at CAtoday@nytimes.com and your submission may be included in a future newsletter.


For weeks, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care was unable to take care of orphaned bears and other large animals.

California regulators have said the center needs major improvements to its enclosures after a bear cub treated for severe forest burns escaped this summer.

It was the first escape in the 45-year history of central South Lake Tahoe, The Associated Press reports.

But the luck of the center seems to be changing. Last week, it had raised almost all of the $ 1.05 million needed to begin the expansion and renovation work, largely thanks to private donors.

“We have taken the leap,” Greg Erfani, spokesperson for the center, told The Associated Press. “He’s going to build the first animal hospital in the Lake Tahoe area.”


Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. – Soumya

PS here today’s mini-crosswords, and a hint: The particular term for the cardboard sleeve around a coffee cup (4 letters).

Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can join the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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