With omicron, many vaccinated Americans will at some point test positive. Here’s what to do.

A line for a coronavirus testing in New York on Dec. 22. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

With the omicron variant spreading rapidly, the United States is all but certain to see a sharp rise in breakthrough coronavirus infections among vaccinated people. These cases were relatively rare in the pre-omicron days, but the new variant has shown an ability to slip past the body’s first line of immune defenses. That means many Americans who have gotten the shots will at some point test positive.

Coronavirus vaccines act like a shield against disease, not an impenetrable barrier, and they offer protection against the omicron variant. Health authorities say booster shots of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are the best defense against serious illness, providing robust protection against severe disease. Your likelihood of developing a breakthrough infection is lowest if you’ve gotten the additional shot. The initial two-shot vaccine regimen still offers protection, but it’s not as effective against the omicron variant without boosters.

If you do get a breakthrough infection, here’s some advice on how to navigate it.

What to know about the omicron variant of the coronavirus

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will likely knock out monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that can be used as a treatment or to protect immunocompromised people.

Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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