You’re vaccinated and boosted. How should omicron affect your plans?

People line up to get tested for the coronavirus in D.C. on Dec. 20. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

The omicron variant of the coronavirus has swept the United States in a matter of weeks, reshaping a pandemic now heading toward its third year and leading some experts to expect record-high cases and hospitalizations.

Scientists are racing to learn more about this new variant, which appears more resistant to vaccines and is even faster-spreading than the delta variant that sent infections spiking earlier this year. Public health officials say that getting a booster shot is the No. 1 thing the vaccinated can do to protect against severe illness and, to a lesser extent, infections.

But how should omicron factor into your plans after vaccination? Infectious-disease experts give a range of answers.

What to know about the omicron variant of the coronavirus

Some think it’s best to skip the New Year’s Eve party, as the country weathers a new wave of disease. Others underscore that Americans must “live with the virus” — especially as vaccines seem to protect well against the worst illness but are less effective at stopping milder cases of omicron.

“The hiding-in-our-basement-behind-the-pile-of-sandbags moment has come and gone,” said Andrew Noymer, associate professor of population health and disease prevention at the University of California at Irvine. “If the rationale is that there’s covid outside the door, well we’re going to be hiding in our basement forever because there’s going to be covid next year, and the year after that.”

“For so many of us — I don’t necessarily think we need to cancel plans,” echoed Darlene Bhavnani, an assistant professor in the department of population health at University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School. “We can do this safely if we take advantage of the tools we have.”

Different people, they all acknowledge, will balance the risks and rewards of each activity differently.

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