COVID-19 Omicron variant expected in the coming weeks

Contributed Article/Courtesy Greenlee County Health Department

MORENCI – The Omicron variant has recently emerged and has rapidly spread worldwide and is causing major increases in COVID-19 related illnesses. Already present throughout the U.S., it is projected to rapidly peak in the next few weeks nationally and will certainly occur in our own area. The details of whether Omicron is able to partially evade the immune protection in individuals who are vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 illness, as well as the severity of illness it causes, is not completely understood at this time. But research and information emerging from South Africa, Great Britain, and Scandinavia, areas that have already experienced large numbers of Omicron caused illnesses, indicate the following generalizations:

• The Omicron variant is highly transmissible – it is, at least, twice that of the Delta strain and spreads to more family and household members.

• Immunity provided by recovery from previous COVID-19 infection does not substantially protect the individual from becoming infected again with Omicron.

• Immunity from COVID vaccination is less protective of Illness by Omicron than it has been from the Delta strain.

• Persons vaccinated with a COVID-19 booster still develop substantial immunity and appear to have the best protection against illness from Omicron.

• While Omicron causes more breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated individuals, it provides significant protection from severe illness (requiring Intensive Care and breathing support) and death. Again, people who received boosters have the best protection.

• The expected large increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant will likely stress already overtaxed healthcare services such as doctors’ offices, ambulance services, urgent care units, emergency rooms, hospitals, and Intensive care units.

The Greenlee Community has already experienced tremendous grief and hardships, with well over 20 COVID-19 related deaths and numerous hospitalizations. Our hearts go out to all who have suffered these losses. The following actions can help protect yourselves, your loved ones, and your community at large. Please adopt these recommendations.

• Wear a well-constructed, fitted mask over both nose and mouth when in public places.

• Avoid congregating in small, poorly ventilated, enclosed spaces.

• Avoid or postpone unnecessary travel and gatherings.

• Stay home if you are ill and get tested for COVID-19 infection.

• Get a medical evaluation if your illness worsens, especially for trouble breathing or other serious symptoms.

• Get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 illness, including the booster dose. Begin the vaccination series if you have not done so previously.

Gila Health Resources and the Duncan and Clifton offices of the Greenlee County Health Department continue to offer Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) vaccinations.

Additional information may be obtained at:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus

https://www.azdhs.gov

https://www.greenlee.az.gov

Greenlee County Health Department can be reached at (928) 865-2601

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