FACT CHECK: Is The Omicron Variant Named After Military Codes?

Hannah Hudnall | Fact Check Reporter

A post shared on Facebook claims the omicron variant of the coronavirus is named after military codes.

Verdict: False

The omicron variant is named after a letter of the Greek alphabet, according to the World Health Organization. It is not named after military codes.

Fact Check:

The omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa in November and has since spread to dozens of countries, according to The New York Times. It is now listed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “Variants of Concern” list, along with the Delta variant of the virus.

A post shared on Facebook claims the new variant is named after military codes, a combination of the code words “ODIN,” another word for “Omi,” according to the post, and “CRON.” (RELATED: Did The World Economic Forum Report On The Omicron Variant In July?)

The post, however, is incorrect about the origin of the variant’s name. In an attempt to simplify the names of the coronavirus variants and avoid the stigmatization associated with using their locations of origin, the World Health Organization (WHO) uses the Greek alphabet to name the variants, according to the WHO website. The omicron variant is just the latest coronavirus variant named using the Greek alphabet. So far, the variants being monitored also include Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Epsilon, Eta, Iota, Kappa, Mu and Zeta, according to the CDC, all names that stem from the Greek alphabet.

The words the Facebook post claims are military codes are also not used by the military. The U.S. military currently uses the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet (IRSA) in its military operations, the same alphabet used by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, according to Military.com. IRSA includes words like “Alfa” and “Delta,” but not “Odin” or “Cron.” It also does not include the word “omicron.”

The post shared on Facebook implies the name of the new variant is connected to “Project Odin,” which it claims is an operation aimed at taking control of “all media, radio, internet platforms.”  This is also inaccurate. While ODIN is a real U.S. military program, it is focused on “developing biometric presentation attack detection technologies,” according to a description of the program on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s website.

Hannah Hudnall

Fact Check Reporter