Worried about the Omicron variant? Expert says to take standard precautions

Published 8:00 am Saturday, December 4, 2021

Many are worried about the newly discovered Omicron variant of COVID-19, which was named as a variant of concern by the United States on Nov. 30, according to the CDC. On Thursday, Brooke Bailey, director of infection prevention for East Alabama Health, shared what she knew about the variant.

“Right now, the thing to really look out for is just for more information,” she said. “So, it’s really not clear whether the Omicron variant is more transmissible compared to other variants, including Delta. We know there’s been an increase in the number of cases in South Africa, and there have been a couple of cases that have been identified in the United States.”

The first confirmed positive case COVID-19 caused by the variant was detected in California, the CDC said on Dec. 1.

Email newsletter signup

Bailey said it isn’t known if the Omicron variant causes more severe illness than other variants. However, she doesn’t think the Valley area needs to do anything in preparation for Omicron that it wouldn’t do for other variants.

“You know, wear a mask while indoors, do as many activities as you can outside, get the COVID vaccination, and if you’re sick, stay away from others,” she said. “Get tested and do what the CDC recommendations are if you were to test positive for COVID.”

Bailey said there’s no way to know how long the variant will take to reach the Valley area.

“More cases will be identified in the coming weeks, and if you remember with the Delta, depending on the level of circulation, of positivity rates in different areas of the country, it really depends,” she said.

Bailey said that because worldwide travel occurs so rapidly, there are probably more positive Omicron cases in the United States than have been reported.

Bailey said East Alabama Health isn’t doing anything special to prepare for the new variant. It is taking the same precautions it usually takes against COVID-19, such as encouraging vaccination, requiring employees to wear masks at work, requiring visitors to wear masks in its facilities, identifying those who have signs and symptoms of COVID-19, isolating them, and treating them accordingly if they test positive.