Researchers say expect more COVID-19 variants in the new year

The World Health Organization warns Omicron will likely outpace the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Public health officials say this isn’t the end, and we should expect more Covid variants in the new year.

“We should recognize that there will continue to be variants and mutations in the virus,” said Rachael Piltch-Loeb, Harvard t. H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Throughout the pandemic, we’ve focused heavily on the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19.

Harvard University researcher Rachael Piltch-Loeb said that’s because those strains quickly became variants of concern.

She said some of the other variants like the Mu and Lambda strains didn’t rise to that same level.

As we head into 2022, Piltch-Loeb said the key for understanding new variants isn’t just tracking transmission rate.  She said it’s also tracking whether a new variant can take over as the most dominate strain at the time.

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“The question at the moment, it seems like Omicron, you know, if we look at South Africa, or we look at the UK, is able to out compete Delta,” said Piltch-Loeb. “But if that was not the case, then well, it may be more transmissible it wouldn’t necessarily have the ability to outcompete whatever the prior dominant variant is. So that I think will be an open question. Yes, we should expect higher transmissibility potentially, but we may or may not see the sustainability from a new variant.”

Researchers say eventually COVID-19 should transition to a localized disease with small outbreaks.

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