Omicron: local health officials advise caution but not overreaction

Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News at 11
Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 3:59 PM EST
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Omicron is a new variant of COVID-19 causing for concern for many people.

Kentucky River Health District Director, Scott Lockard remains focused on improving vaccination rates.

“The main thing we need to focus on here, especially in Kentucky River Health District, is to get vaccinated,” he said.

Lockard added if you have taken the necessary precautions, family gatherings for the holidays should not be cancelled.

”It’s been a long time,” he said. “It’s been a long pandemic. It’s good for our mental health to get back with individuals, to see our families [and] to see our friends. Get vaccinated, get protected. That’s the best precaution.”

He said, beyond vaccinations, the precautions remain the same. Wear a mask in public spaces and frequently wash your hands and get the booster when eligible.

”We have a lot of individuals now that are eligible for a boost that have not gotten that booster yet,” Lockard said.

If the precautions are followed, Lockard said holiday gatherings should be safe.

”What this says is, we’re not done with this pandemic until we’re done with it. And we got to keep up the things that we know help.”

Governor Beshear shared his thoughts on the variant at an event in Eastern Kentucky.

“Just like in the beginning of this pandemic there is so much we don’t know,” he said. “So, I’d ask everybody to breath and to give it enough time to have enough information.”

The Governor added that news of this variant should serve as an important reminder.

”What this says is, we’re not done with this pandemic until we’re done with it,” Beshear said. “And we got to keep up the things that we know help.”

Omicron was first detected by South African scientists working with advanced detection systems on November 24. World Health Organization officials say the variant may be responsible for a recent spike in cases in South Africa.

The variant has also been detected in Botswana, the Netherlands, Denmark, the UK, Australia and Hong Kong.

Omicron was classified a “Variant of Concern” on November 26 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). No cases have been reported in the U.S. to date and the CDC said they were “grateful” to the South African government and its scientists who shared early information.

From a statement released to the media on November 26 CDC officials said, “CDC is continuously monitoring variants and the U.S. variant surveillance system has reliably detected new variants in this country. We expect Omicron to be identified quickly, if it emerges in the U.S.”

Studies on the effectiveness of existing vaccines are ongoing.

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