On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified a new COVID-19 variant, omicron. Cases of this variant have been identified in several states in the U.S., as well asin several other countries. Maryland and U.S. surveillance systems are monitoring for the variant.
Omicron has mutations that make it different from Delta and other known variants. These mutations may make omicron spread more easily or evade some immune protection from infections or vaccines, but not enough is known yet.
Vaccination continues to be critical for everyone 5 and over, as well as booster doses for everyone age 18+ who is eligible (who had their last Pfizer or Moderna more than 6 months ago, or their Johnson & Johnson more than 2 months ago). Though we don’t yet know if current vaccines will be as effective against omicron, it is likely that they will still provide substantial protection.
The same prevention strategies we have been using can also help reduce the spread of the new variant – wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission, washing your hands frequently, avoiding crowds, and getting tested after exposure, when you have symptoms, or when you plan to visit someone high risk.
Travelers should continue to follow CDC recommendations for traveling.
Return to the main COVID-19 page for more information on local data, vaccinations, testing, and more.