Tips to stay healthy as Omicron variant spreads across country

Published 8:00 am Thursday, December 23, 2021

Local health officials continue to encourage vaccinations before Christmas as the Omicron COVID-19 variant surges across the country.

According to a press release from East Alabama Medical Center, for the week ending Dec. 11, the Omicron variant only accounted for 12 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the CDC website. The Delta variant was responsible for almost all of the remaining 88 percent. Just one week later, 73 percent of new cases are attributed to the Omicron variant and Delta is at 27 percent.

Brooke Bailey, Infection Prevention director for East Alabama Health, said that just because Omicron has not officially been identified in this region does not mean it isn’t present.

“The ADPH (Alabama Department of Public Health) did announce last week that Omicron had been identified elsewhere in the state,” Bailey said. “Given the increased travel that’s already occurred with Thanksgiving and the travel expected over the next two weeks, it’s safe to say that Omicron is either already here or will be very shortly.”

Bailey says it’s important to take a step back and remember the advice given during previous COVID peaks.

“While Delta and Omicron have both been able to cause breakthrough cases in people who are fully vaccinated, the level of illness is greatly reduced and fewer hospitalizations and deaths occur in this demographic,” Bailey said. “People who are unvaccinated still account for the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths, so advice number one is to get vaccinated immediately. And if you are fully vaccinated and eligible for a booster shot, please do that today.”

Of course, Bailey said there are other ways to help prevent transmission of COVID-19.

“Just as we have stated since day one,” Bailey said, “it’s important to practice social distancing, good hand hygiene and the wearing of a mask when you cannot be socially distant from others. No one measure will prevent COVID-19, but being vaccinated and following this other advice will help protect individuals and decrease transmission in the community.”

Holiday gatherings are just days away, and many will be celebrating with their families. With that in mind, the Georgia Department of Public Health is also asking that people get vaccinated and take precautions. Among the precautions are the following:

4Get a COVID vaccination and booster dose.

4For young children who aren’t yet eligible for the COVID vaccine, reduce the risk of exposure by making sure the people around them are vaccinated.

4Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth in public indoor settings.

4Physically distance, about six feet, around people outside of your own household.

4Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces and remember that outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities.

4Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

4If you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, don’t host or attend a gathering.

4Follow CDC recommendations for holiday travel.

4Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Chambers County has still seen relatively low numbers of new cases of COVID-19 over the last week, as cases have been in the single digits every single day.

EAMC said COVID-19 hospitalizations at East Alabama Medical Center and EAMC-Lanier are still stable, with no more than 12 patients each day since Nov. 1, and no more than two COVID patients on ventilators since Oct. 27.

“While this is encouraging, southeastern states are not yet seeing transmission rates as high as those in other parts of the country,” the press release said. “Also, hospitalizations typically begin increasing about two weeks after cases begin to increase.”

Troup County is seeing its highest case totals since September. There were 43 new cases on Tuesday.

GDPH warned that testing is important to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you have symptoms or had a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should be tested, regardless of your vaccination status. Consider getting a COVID test before gathering indoors with others to determine if you’re positive for COVID and to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

If you test positive, you should isolate and inform close contacts. A negative test result indicates either you are not infected or that you are at low risk of spreading disease to others, even though it does not necessarily rule out an infection.