January 24, 2022

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Lesson Plan About the Omicron Variant

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3. What do scientists know so far about the variant? Do you agree with Roberto Burioni, the Italian virologist who cautioned that people should not panic? Why?

4. How did officials and business owners in South Africa react to the international response? Are you sympathetic to their point of view? Why?

5. What implications does the Omicron variant have for vaccine research and distribution, as well as for vaccination campaigns?

In “Here We Go Again: Chaos Rules Global Response to Omicron Variant,” Jason Horowitz reports on countries’ varied approaches to the emergence of the Omicron variant:

In a wrenchingly familiar cycle of tracking first cases, pointing fingers and banning travel, nations worldwide reacted Monday to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the piecemeal fashion that has defined — and hobbled — the pandemic response all along.

As here-we-go-again fear and resignation gripped much of the world, the World Health Organization warned that the risk posed by the heavily mutated variant was “very high.” But operating once again in a vacuum of evidence, governments chose approaches that differed between continents, between neighboring countries, and even between cities within those countries.

If you were a world leader or government official, what strategy would you recommend for dealing with the Omicron variant? Would you stop international flights and close borders, or try to continue on the path toward normalcy? Would you double down on encouraging — or even mandating — vaccination and booster shots? Would you wait for more information about this new variant, or instead try to act as quickly as possible using the knowledge we have about previous variants?

Read the rest of Mr. Horowitz’s article to learn more about different national responses. Then read the opinion column “Omicron Is Coming. The U.S. Must Act Now,” by Zeynep Tufekci, which urges the United States to take strong, dynamic measures against the Omicron variant.

Using the information you’ve gathered, formulate a one- to two-page public policy proposal. Your paper should address the topics covered in the articles and the column, including policies on:

  • international travel

  • testing

  • vaccines and booster shots

  • masking

  • international coordination, including sharing vaccine stockpiles with developing nations


Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.

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