As the Omicron variant continues to spread, including here in Ellis County, doctors continue to urge people to get vaccinated to provide themselves with the best protection.
“Our laboratory does random samples and, as of this weekend (Dec. 25-26), 91% of the positive cases were Omicron,” said Dr. Glenn Ledbetter, chief medical officer, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie. “Very soon 100% of the positive COVID tests from our hospital will be Omicron.”
He encourages people to take the health threat seriously.
“So far it appears that Omicron is probably twice as contagious as the Delta variant, and Delta was more contagious than the Alpha variant,” Ledbetter said.
A wide range of symptoms has been reported for Omicron, which has presented as a mild to severe illness. Symptoms have included fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and muscle or body aches.
The state agency, Texas Health and Human Services, reports that Omicron appears to spread more easily than the other known variants, with unvaccinated people most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and any of its variants.
Ledbetter said people should practice safe health protocols when out in public to keep themselves, family members, friends, and neighbors safe, and noted that vaccination has proven to be the most effective measure in reducing hospitalizations and deaths.
“I think that in this day and time that it is still good to practice good health practices like washing your hands, distancing as much as you can,” he said. “When you are in a crowded place indoors, I would probably still wear a mask.
“There is some data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention that the fully vaccinated booster patient can still transmit the virus,” he said. “So fully vaccinated individuals and people who have received a booster should probably wear a mask indoors. That is the best-case scenario until we can see some type of herd immunity.”
Timeline of Omicron
• Nov. 24: A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.529, was reported to the World Health Organization. This new variant was first detected in specimens collected Nov. 11 in Botswana and Nov. 14 in South Africa.
• Nov. 26: WHO named the B.1.1.529 Omicron and classified it as a Variant of Concern.
• Nov. 30: The United States designated Omicron as a Variant of Concern.
• Dec. 1: The first confirmed U.S. case of Omicron was identified.
• Dec. 6: First case of Omicron COVID-19 variant in Texas reported in Harris County.
- Source CDC and Texas Tribune.
• Vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19, slow transmission, and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging.
• COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.
• Scientists are currently investigating Omicron, including how protected fully vaccinated people will be against infection, hospitalization, and death.
• CDC recommends that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated.
• CDC recommends that everyone ages 18 years and older should get a booster shot at least two months after their initial J&J/Janssen vaccine or six months after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
- Source CDC
• Masks offer protection against all variants.
• CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission, regardless of vaccination status.
• CDC provides advice about masks for people who want to learn more about what type of mask is right for them depending on their circumstances.
- Source CDC