(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) As family members prepare to gather for the holiday's, the new Omicron COVID-19 variant may be gathering with them.
Recent reports show that Omicron has been discovered in the St. Joseph wastewater including the rest of the world who is learning to deal with the rapid spread of the virus.
“The Omicron variant has been seen to spread rapidly and has actually become the most dominant variant in the United States now," said Debra Bradley who is the Health Director of the St. Joseph Health Department. “We do know it is here in Buchanan County. The only way we know it’s here is through the Sewershed Study that the Department of Health and Senior Services completed.”
Since Thanksgiving, St. Joe has reported 12 deaths, averaging 50-60 new cases a day with 63 patients in the hospital. A 10.9% positivity rate that mirrors the month of December in 2020.
“People are relying on a previous infection as a means of immunity," said Bradley. "This Omicron variant is not–it doesn't seem to care. It infects people who are vaccinated, people who have had the virus before, people who have not."
The CDC recommends those that are eligible, to get the booster shot. The Omicron variant is reported to spread faster with milder symptoms.
"It does seem to provide an added level of protection against the Omicron variant," said Bradley. "The vaccine does wean in its' effectiveness."
Bradley said while the goal is for cases and the positivity rate to reach 0, that may never seem possible.
“If we can get under 5% positivity rate, if we can get under 3% positivity rate we’re doing well," Bradley added. "But right now you’re right, we’re over 10% and that’s a red flag.”
Like year's past, Bradley expects the numbers to decrease once the holiday season is over and the warmer weather moves in. But for now, local health officials want to make sure friends and families aren't unwrapping Omicron gifts this year.
“The non-pharmaceutical interventions which include face masks, socially distancing, washing your hands, even opening a window and increasing air flow, and staying home if you’re sick. Those are the things that anybody can do and they’re easy to do–they’re still the standard recommendations. They show that they work, they prevented the flu from spreading last year, they have minimized–they have positive impacts on COVID, and those are the best practices that people can do even going forward against the Omicron variant," Bradley said.