HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads and cases numbers slowly climb, Alabama health officials are saying you should be vigilant this holiday season.
“I would like for the holiday season for just a little bit, for us to tap the brakes, and rethink how we are all dealing with COVID,” says Dr. Michael Saag, infectious disease expert at UAB.
Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama State Health Officer, says when it comes to the omicron variant and a new wave of this pandemic… he’s seeing familiar trends.
“For the past two to three weeks, it has been clear that our numbers are going the wrong direction,” says Dr. Harris.
Here’s what we know about Omicron: it’s twice as transmissible as the Delta variant, vaccines are not as effective against it, and two common monoclonal antibody drugs do not work to treat it.
“The bailout that we had been having for a lot of people. I think estimates are we prevented 70 to 85 percent of hospitalizations by giving those monoclonal antibody infusions within five days o onset of symptoms.. We don’t have those two antibodies,” says Dr. Saag.
Alabama doctors say now is the time to heed warnings and focus on slowing the spread to avoid a major spike here in Alabama. Especially with travel and gatherings to happen for Christmas.
“Early data suggests it might not be as aggressive in terms of symptoms and severe illness in unvaccinated people as delta, but we don’t know that yet. So if you are unvaccinated, please get vaccinated. It’s not too late. Go ahead and start your series now,” says Dr. Saag.
Because doctors say, the vaccine is still the most effective tool to fight the virus.
“If you’ve had two shots there’s about a 70 percent chance that you’d have a breakthrough infection. If you’ve had a booster, that is reduced to about 30 percent so the booster does seem to matter a lot,” says Dr. Saag.
Doctors are urging people this week to go back to the basics of avoiding large gatherings, wearing masks in crowds, and keeping those hands washed. Dr. Scott Harris says it would even be beneficial to get COVID tested before those Christmas get-togethers.