Omicron is the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. Its literal translation is “little O.” You are probably more familiar with omega, which means “great O.” But despite the letter’s diminutive place in the Grecian alphabetical hierarchy, Omicron’s arrival has been anything but little. Since North Carolina reported its first case of the new, highly contagious COVID-19 strain in early December, Omicron has been rapidly spreading in communities throughout the state. Add to that Christmas and New Year’s gatherings and celebrations and you have the makings of an unprecedented surge.

Last week, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported the highest number of cases in a single day: 19,174. However, this is partly because the state ramped up testing in anticipation of a holiday spike. Fewer cases were reported Monday, but the proportion of folks testing positive crept up by about 5 percent.

The silver lining: if experts are right, Omicron might burn itself out rather quickly because of its rapid spread, potentially bringing the pandemic to an end sooner.

Or not. Who knows.

Happy New Year.

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