close up of a covid molecule

Omicron moves fast. Here’s what that means for the next few weeks.

If you think the omicron variant has swept throughout the world at a bewildering pace, that’s because it has.

Cases of this strain of the coronavirus have been doubling at a rate of two to three days—compare that with the roughly two-week doubling time of the Delta variant.

A virus that moves so quickly around the globe could spell disaster just as people are traveling and gathering for holiday and New Year celebrations. But the devil’s in the details when it comes to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. And scientists have learned a lot more details about this speedy strain in the two weeks since the World Health Organization labeled omicron as a “variant of concern.”

“The likelihood of a couple of rough months ahead is increasing, but it’s a mixed bag of news,” says Alessandro Vespignani, who leads a team of infectious disease modelers at Northeastern that has been developing a set of predictive models to project the future of the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020. “It could be worse, and it could be even better if we get more reassuring news on the side of severity.”

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