Omicron variant: VDH is closely monitoring; no cases in Virginia yet

Coronavirus

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — As Virginians gather this holiday season we are faced with yet another COVID-19 concern: the Omicron variant, which has many frustrated and confused.

The Virginia Department of Health issued a news release Monday afternoon saying it is closing monitoring this latest variant.

While no cases have been identified in the United States yet, VDH officials expect it will be in the U.S. and in Virginia soon.

“I think one of the areas of concern quite honestly for a lot of people is when will this end,” said Dr. Cindy Williams with Riverside Health Systems.

Dr. Williams told WAVY the variant is no surprise to health experts. “We knew this would happen. We also knew that it may happen more rapidly if we didn’t get the entire world vaccinated,” she said.

Williams explained that over time viruses mutate to overcome immunities. That’s why the flu vaccine changes every year.

The real question now is if Omicron will be a real threat. Williams noted other variants, such as Gamma, never had much impact in the U.S. and so far reports from South Africa indicate Omicron infections have been mild. “I think for now it’s really a wait and see,” Williams said.

Meantime, experts say the current vaccine will likely provide some protection from Omicron and will definitely protect you from the Delta variant which is currently the prevalent one in Virginia and across the nation.

Health experts recommend everyone age 5 and older get the vaccine, and boosters when you are eligible. If you were fully vaccinated by June 1, 2021 you are eligible now.

“Once again, we see how unpredictable viruses can be. Viruses change and mutate all the time, and as we learn more about this new variant, we need to continue taking precautions to reduce infections,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “We all want this pandemic to end. Please, if you haven’t been vaccinated already and are eligible, get vaccinated. And if you are eligible for a booster, please get your booster as soon as you can.”

If you need to get tested for COVID-19, find a location near you on the VDH COVID-19 Testing page.

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