TAMPA, Fla — Despite omicron likely being in the U.S. already, the race to contain the new variant is on.
"We do all we can to stop a large entry of the variants," Mathematical Modeler Dr. Edwin Michael said.
The nation's split decision on travel restrictions buys the country time.
"You want to prevent a large entry or spread of those cases, so in that sense, it makes sense to step in quickly and try and prevent large spread," Michael said.
More than 200 cases of this new variant have turned up in 20 countries so far. While the U.S. tries to build up its COVID-19 surveillance system, Michael says the way the virus spreads will depend on its transmissibility, how long our immunity from vaccines lasts, and if people get their booster shot.
"If it's like 10 percent more transmissible than Delta, then that's not going to make a big impact. If it gets to 25 percent and 50 percent, then we have to be careful. It will interact with the waning of immunity and the fact that the vaccines are not going to be as effective, so you're going to get more breakthrough infections," Michael said.
Taking a deeper dive into the data for Florida, forecasts show a fourth wave of cases if vaccine immunity wanes and omicron is more transmissible.
"If you get a more transmissible wave in coming in, you'll get this larger resurgence. Those large resurgences can affect hospital capacity, so we're not out of the woods," Michael said.
So right now it's a waiting game and travel will have an impact with Florida being a "high risk" state due to an influx of international travelers.
While the Biden Administration waits to learn more about omicron, they don't currently have plans to implement international flight restrictions. The best thing we can do is get vaccinated or boosted.