PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Health is closely monitoring COVID-19 cases for the omicron variant, as experts work to determine how contagious or potentially dangerous it could be.
On Tuesday, Portsmouth Health Department Acting Director Dr. Najidah Rehman and Portsmouth Health Department Epidemiologist Michelle Winz joined WAVY’s Stephanie Hudson for a Facebook Live Q&A session.
The health officials answered some of our viewers’ most pressing questions, starting with ‘Is omicron in Virginia?’
Dr. Rehman answered: “That is yet to be determined, so the state lab is doing surveillance and follow up on positive COVID cases from hospitals and local labs but as of the end of November, we have not found any.”
It’s still unclear whether the omicron variant will be more contagious than other variants or cause more severe disease. So far, cases appear to be milder but the health officials said we can’t be sure just yet.
“It’s still relatively new. We’ve just been identifying cases for a couple of weeks and we know that hospitalization and death take some time. They take a while for people to develop the severe illness. We also know the population is younger in South Africa than here in America. We just need a few more weeks to see those trends, ” Winz said.
Because we won’t know more until pretty much right at the holidays, these experts advise is to get your booster shot or first dose if you haven’t.
Even though they’re not yet sure how omicron will react to it, they believe the vaccine booster will provide at least some immunity to it — and they say it will definitely protect you from the delta variant, which is the predominant variant in Virginia today.
Watch the full coronavirus digital discussion below: