Health officials urge people to take caution over the holidays as COVID-19 omicron cases surge

Virus Outbreak Britain
Posted at 7:21 AM, Dec 20, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — “The message is this is an important variant, we should take it very seriously,” said Dr. Paul Burton, Chief Medical Officer for Moderna Inc.

More cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant are being detected daily, as health officials prepare for the strain to take over in the United States in the coming weeks.

Here’s what they know so far:

  • Researchers say omicron is the most transmissible variant to date, even more than delta
  • The reinfection rate is high, people who’ve already had COVID-19 have a higher chance of getting it again 
  • Vaccines are still a good way to avoid severe COVID-19, although they are less effective against omicron 

“I highly, highly recommend vaccination still as being the number one strategy,” said Dr. Jason Wilson, Associate Medical Director of the Emergency Room at Tampa General Hospital.

Doctors say getting a booster shot gives you the best chance of protection we have so far.

“If we are going to get infected that is a very mild infection compared to a severe or hospitalizing type of infection,” said Wilson.

Right now, vaccine companies are working on doses that will be better at preventing omicron infections, including Moderna.

“We started on Thanksgiving day, mobilize the organization to make the omicron specific vaccine and that work is going on right now we should begin dosing people in the new year to test it,” said Burton.

In the meantime, doctors say what we do now over the holidays will have a significant impact on the future of the pandemic.

“It’s going to be very important to try to gather with vaccinated groups of people to try to keep the groups as small as possible, to use some common sense around closed indoor spaces versus being able to go outdoors and spread a little bit more,” said Wilson.

“Wash hands, wear a mask, use some social distancing. It’s important, it’s easy, it’s simple but it really works,” said Burton.

Experts say it’s very important to take these precautions, especially if you’re traveling.

“You need to be really careful about what your travel destination is and what your risk is… There are some destinations that the CDC is recommending you avoid all travel because the transmission is so high this includes really popular locations like Italy,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, Associate Professor for the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida.

“Of course I would say to everybody, let’s all do our part to protect everyone. I don’t know if the person next to me on the train is vaccinated or not. I’m going to wear my mask and make sure to keep them safe,” she added.

Know who you’re celebrating with. If someone is immunocompromised, doctors say wear a mask and keep your distance.

If you’re traveling to a place with high transmission rates, get tested before going to your gathering.

“We don’t need to panic we have tools at our disposal here,” said Burton.