Omicron spreading quickly as people plan holiday family gatherings

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Posted at 4:16 PM, Dec 20, 2021

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla — Researchers believe the COVID-19 omicron variant should outpace delta as the dominant variant in the U.S. just as people prepare to gather for the holidays. 

“Pretty much every country right now that we’ve seen, the omicron spreads really fast. Doubling time between 2 to 3 days which is really unusual,” said Dr. Michael Teng, an Associate Professor of Medicine at USF.

Dr. Teng said that’s because it’s way better at evading immunity than previous variants.

“It can infect people who are previously vaccinated and have a little bit of waning immunity. So, this is the virus that we’ve been kind of worried about for a while,” he said.

That's why family gatherings are in question now.

Dr. Teng said for those who are vaccinated and boosted, getting together is fine. But, to help keep transmission down, he said social distancing from each other, washing hands, and potentially even wearing masks is a good idea, especially around older people or folks with medical conditions.

“This is not a risk-free world, so you have to make good choices about what risks you’re going to take. If you’re going to get together, make sure that you mitigate it properly,” he said.

If you’re traveling; it’s important to prepare as well. AAA said nearly 305,000 Floridians will fly between December 23rd and January 2nd.

“If you’re going to go on an airplane, make sure you’re wearing a really good mask, so an N-95 mask. And don’t take them off while you’re in a close space,” said Dr. Teng.

Hillsborough County said it saw 2,051 people tested over the last three days at its site off Rome Avenue.

Dr. Teng reminds folks that if you plan to get tested for COVID-19 ahead of seeing family, do it as close as possible to the time of your visit. He said you should be prepared to stay home if it is positive. Above all, he said the responsible thing is to get fully vaccinated and/or boosted before seeing family.

If you want to get tested at the Hillsborough County site, just be reminded it is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as New Year's Eve and the next day.