Oregon Health Authority is issuing a statement on the new COVID-19 variant known as Omicron, which the World Health Organization has classified as a variant of concern. The following is from Dean E. Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist:
We know the emergence of the new variant of COVID-19, called the Omicron variant, is concerning for many Oregonians. We share that concern, and Oregon Health Authority epidemiologists are closely monitoring its transmission in other parts of the world.
What we do know is that the basic prevention steps we have long talked about remain the best ways to protect yourself against Omicron, Delta or any variant of COVID-19 that is circulating. Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19 infection and transmission, including most circulating variants.
Omicron has not yet been detected in the United States, but we expect it will be in the coming days due to its reported high transmissibility. Oregon has one of the most robust variant surveillance systems in the United States, and so far, no cases of Omicron have been detected in Oregon.
Omicron is reported to be more transmissible than the Delta variant as it’s quickly outcompeted Delta in South Africa, but we do not yet know how much more transmissible it is. We also don’t know how Omicron affects vaccine effectiveness against severe infection (hospitalization and death). The vaccines have remained highly effective against other variants, and we expect the same to be true with Omicron. We should have early answers in the coming weeks.
The best way to protect yourself against Omicron, or any variant of COVID-19 that is circulating, is to be vaccinated. Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19. Those who are not yet vaccinated should get their first COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Those due for a booster – all adults either two months after a Johnson & Johnson vaccination or six months after a Moderna or Pfizer vaccination – should get it as soon as possible. Wearing a mask when inside public places as well as social distancing and handwashing remain incredibly important in the face of an emerging variant and high levels of community transmission.
We know that news of Omicron’s emergence will cause many people to experience some anxiety about the unknown. We also know there is a great deal of “pandemic fatigue” as cases, hospitalizations and deaths are reported daily. COVID-19 continues to disrupt our lives. I share these anxieties as we continue to face COVID-19.
I want to thank all of my public health colleagues and health care partners who continue to help protect us from COVID-19 and provide us all with quality care. Some communities – our communities of color and our Native American neighbors – have been especially impacted by COVID-19. But no Oregonian has been spared, so I want to thank all Oregonians for the steps they continue to take to protect themselves, loved ones and communities from this pandemic.
Source: Oregon Health Authority