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COVID-19 Update: Omicron & How to Stay Safe

COVID-19 Update: Omicron & How to Stay Safe

With the highly transmissible Omicron variant now dominant in the United States and COVID-19 cases rising locally, health officials are encouraging everyone to remain vigilant, get vaccinated and receive their booster dose as soon as possible.

The Omicron variant makes up more than 73% of new COVID-19 infections in the U.S., according to recent data from the CDC. Frederick County saw its COVID cases double last week, a sign that local increases in cases are beginning to mirror the steep increases in COVID both nationally and internationally related to the spread of Omicron.

“We will very likely see a surge in COVID-19 infections due to the omicron variant over the next couple of weeks,” said Population Health and Community Health Officer Jeff Feit, MD. “Remaining vigilant and getting vaccinated are crucial to slowing the spread of Omicron and reducing hospitalizations and death. We now know that while the initial vaccines provide some protection, people who have received a booster have far better protection from Omicron. The upcoming holidays will pose many challenges. Masking, keeping socially distant, and washing your hands remain key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and are particularly important during this surge.”

Health officials are highly advising unvaccinated individuals get vaccinated to help prevent illness. While it appears the Omicron variant may be less aggressive than other variants, it can still cause severe illness and death, especially among the unvaccinated population. Unvaccinated individuals are more likely to be hospitalized than those who are vaccinated, which can strain healthcare systems already dealing with COVID and preclude immediate care for patients with other ailments.

Health officials are also encouraging a booster shot for individuals who have undergone a 2-dose vaccine regimen (Pfizer or Moderna) or a 1-dose Johnson & Johnson regimen. A booster shot reduces the chance that vaccinated individuals will experience breakthrough infections, hospitalization and death.

Additional ways to slow the spread of COVID-19 over the holidays include:

  • Avoiding large family gatherings if possible
  • Avoiding shopping in crowded places like malls
  • Washing your hands often and wearing a mask
  • Getting tested if you believe you have symptoms. Home tests are widely available and reliable for people who have symptoms.
  • Isolating at home if you have tested positive for COVID or are experiencing symptoms

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