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Omicron variant becomes dominant strain in U.S.

Some prepare for holiday gatherings
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Posted at 5:13 PM, Dec 22, 2021

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Some people put decorations on their house for Christmas, others put up a tree and decorate it. But this year, some are preparing for family gatherings by taking COVID-19 precautions as we finish up the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Corpus Christi resident Julie Rogers is one of those people. She has been quarantining in her home for 10 days, and has taken COVID-19 tests, all in preparation for her son and daughter to visit from San Antonio.

“We have a new grandbaby that had respiratory issues when he was born, so he was in NICU, and this is his first trip to Corpus Christi and we wanted to make sure that we were all safe,” Rogers said.

READ MORE: Vaccinations have controlled many of history's worst illnesses, and they could do the same for COVID-19

She said she is vaccinated, as well, as wears a mask in public spaces. She said she is choosing to shop at local shops, rather than the mall, to avoid large crowds. She said it’s also important to practice healthy habits in a time when the Omicron variant is the most dominant strain, making up 73 percent of COVID-19 cases.

“Vitamins matter, and the fresh ones matter the most, so boost your immunity, get sunshine, get your Vitamin D,” Rogers recommended.

Driscoll Children’s Hospital director of infectious diseases Dr. Jaime Fergie said the Omicron variant is spreading farther than the other variants. Just about a month ago, the Delta variant was the dominant variant in the U.S.

“I think the Omicron is here," he said. "It’s all over the place. It’s the dominant strain. It would be extremely unlikely that it’s not here.”

Fergie said people who are immunocompromised should avoid crowds this holiday season, and have their third dose of the vaccine. He said if you are going to get tested for COVID-19, whether you’re vaccinated or not, it should be done at least 24 to 48 hours before you gather with people.

Fergie said the over-the-counter testing kits are good when people have symptoms such as a headache and a sore throat, but not when you don’t have symptoms.

“When you have no symptoms they are not very good," he said. "In which case a PCR test is much better to detect the virus. On the other hand, the PCR test is wonderful in the way that it can also detect the infection that you had two or three months ago, if it’s not a current infection.”

However, Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District Clinical Director Dr. Kim Onufrak said there is a shortage of at-home tests because people are testing in preparation for the holidays.

She said more people are also going to the health-district testing sites and getting tested, as well as the vaccine clinics to get vaccinated or to get their booster. However, she said the vaccine is not as effective against the Omicron variant.

“Initially, it was 95 percent effective against COVID, but with the new variants it decreases, and with Omicron it’s only 30 to 40 percent with full vaccination," she said. "But, if you do get your booster, it brings it up to 80 percent.”

Onufrak said people that are not vaccinated are 31 times more likely to get sick with COVID-19 with the Omicron variant.

“What appears to be good news — we won’t really know for sure for the next few weeks — is that there are currently, even though there are higher number of cases currently, the hospitalizations and the number of deaths, even though it’s a little bit higher, are not where it was with the Delta variant,” she said.