Omicron spread means extra diligence for holiday gatherings, travel
St. George, Utah – The Omicron variant is rapidly becoming dominant in the U.S., and could be the dominant COVID-19 variant in Utah by Christmas, according to Utah physicians.
The timing is terrible as many people already started traveling for the holidays.
The medical director of Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital said there is no need to panic but people should know their risk when they travel and some people may need to change plans or skip a gathering.
“Take the steps necessary to protect yourselves. Take the steps necessary to protect your loved ones. Christmas is a wonderful time,” said Dr. Patrick Carroll, medical director of Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.
Despite a drop in hospitalizations and new COVID-19 infections statewide, the Omicron variant is still driving the widespread transmission.
“We continue to see an increase in the prevalence of Omicron among all those that are being tested, and it looks like it could be the predominant variant, based on what we’re seeing, by Christmas,” Carroll said.
Utah’s hospitals and ICUs remain full. Carroll said Covid-19 hospitalizations at St. George Regional Hospital are stable, not rising or declining dramatically. He’s cautious about the potential for a post-holiday surge.
Vaccination offers the best protection, and Dr. Carroll recommended keeping gatherings small.
“In small groups, getting together with loved ones, particularly where individuals are vaccinated and boosted, I think people can feel comfortable doing that,” he said.
That does not eliminate the possibility of infection, but the likelihood of being hospitalized is dramatically lower.
When traveling, know what you’re getting into,” the doctor said.
“Reach out to those that you would be visiting to find out if they are symptomatic, or not. If they are, as hard as it can be sometimes, reconsider your travel plans,” Carroll said.
People should stay home and isolate themselves if they’re sick.
Wear masks where it’s appropriate, and keep your distance.
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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.
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