Doctors: Omicron will be dominant variant by the first of the year

Dec 17, 2021, 5:10 PM | Updated: 8:29 pm

MURRAY, Utah — Christmas Eve is only a week away, and doctors are warning everyone to be careful about gathering as COVID-19 continues to sicken Utahns.

Omicron will quickly become the dominant variant in our state if it continues to spread the way it has so far.

Doctors shared safe strategies Friday for gathering during the holidays. 

Right now, the delta variant is responsible for the COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Utah. But an infectious diseases physician at Intermountain Healthcare said omicron will likely be the dominant strain by the first of the year. 

“The elephant in the room is the omicron variant,” Dr. Brandon Webb said.

The latest variant, which was first detected in South Africa, is spreading rapidly across the U.S. In northeastern states, a growing proportion of COVID-19 cases are now coming from omicron, a proportion doubling every two to three days. 

“What that means is that this new variant is more efficient at causing infection, and it’s able to outcompete delta,” Webb said. 

Right now, he said, omicron only represents 3 to 6% of the cases in Utah, pending confirmation by sequencing at the Utah Department of Health lab. But that proportion will likely surge if it follows the path it has taken in Europe and the Eastern U.S. 

“Going into the next month, that’s concerning, because we’re projecting that the omicron variant will significantly burden the healthcare systems because of its transmissibility,” Webb said.  

New data out of the United Kingdom shows the vaccines, plus boosters, protect against severe infection and death from either variant. If you’re going to a large gathering, Webb suggested getting tested, or testing yourself at home. 

Also, understand your individual risk. 

“If you’re not fully vaccinated, the likelihood of having severe COVID-19 is much higher,” Webb said. 

Even more so for adults with medical conditions like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or other conditions that impair the immune system. 

“It’s very important for individuals to understand their risk and to take appropriate precautions,” Webb said. 

Social distancing, masking, and limiting the size of your gatherings will work against omicron, the doctor said. 

“The most important is not to gather, not to be in public if you have symptoms. If you have symptoms that are consistent with a respiratory infection, please don’t gather with individuals — get tested instead.” 

The infectious diseases physician said testing early and testing often for those with symptoms is the best way to contain the virus, along with vaccinating and boosting everyone who is eligible. 

Coronavirus Resources

Have you or a family member been affected by coronavirus issues in Utah? KSL wants to hear from you. Contact KSL by emailing

Click here to sign up for a vaccine and here to see how Utah’s vaccine rollout is progressing.

The latest COVID-19 stories from KSL can be found here.

How do I prevent it?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus Utah

The Nurse Crisis and Patent Risk....
Debbie Worthen

Utah registered nurses are leaving the field, creating the ‘perfect storm’

"Without nurses, we can't have hospitals." Utah nurses are overworked and underpaid. Some say it's put people at risk.
15 days ago
Four-year-old Viola Fairfax-Panza Getting her COVID-19 vaccination, held by her mother Keke Fairfax...
Jed Boal

Salt Lake Co. distributes COVID vaccines for children 6-months and older

Salt Lake County begins COVID-19 vaccinations for children 6 months and older.
15 days ago
FILE PHOTO (Photo by Stephen Zenner/Getty Images)...
Jed Boal

Utah’s youngest kids should be able to get COVID-19 vaccine next week

Kids as young as 6 months old should be able to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the middle of next week. This is an eagerly awaited opportunity for many parents and an issue of concern for others.
19 days ago
Utah COVID testing site. Getty images...
Cary J. Schwanitz, KSL TV

New mobile COVID-19 testing sites open in Utah

With the summer travel season underway and a steady stream of people still testing positive for COVID-19, Nomi Health opened several mobile testing sites across Utah.
28 days ago
The CDC is released updated mask guidance as researchers learn more about COVID-19. (KSL TV)...
Michael Houck, KSL TV

Charter school asks students not to mask to help ‘normalize’ not wearing masks at school

The American Preparatory Academy asks students not to wear a mask during their last three days of school to help with their 'academic and emotional growth.'
1 month ago
AURORA, CO - DECEMBER 15: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center investigat...
Jed Boal, KSL TV

Pfizer booster shot is now approved for children 5-11, here’s what a doctor advises

The CDC now recommends Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for children ages five to 11. But, a leading pediatric epidemiologist suggests some parents may want to wait based on their summer plans.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Doctors: Omicron will be dominant variant by the first of the year