RONCEVERTE, WV (WVNS) — COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise across the nation and the first confirmed case of the Omicron variant was found in West Virginia right before the holidays. The variant is now the dominant strain of the virus and the CDC said it makes up three-fourths of all COVID-19 cases in the United States.
Greenbrier County Health Officer Bridgett Morrison said the new strain is more transmissible than other variants and urges people to be careful going into the holiday travel season. She recommends people take extreme caution if they choose to travel, including wearing masks and social distancing wherever possible. Most importantly, Morrison said if you feel sick, you should stay home.
“To continue to social distance, masking, all of those layers help,” Morrison said. “If you are not vaccinated or anyone that you are going to be around is not vaccinated, of course large crowds, all of that is incredibly risky right now and it is not just here, it is everywhere that you are seeing these numbers go up.”
Morrison said symptoms of the Omicron variant are similar to other variants of COVID-19. People should self monitor for flu and cold-like symptoms including fever, shortness of breath, lack of taste or smell, cough, nausea, muscle aches and vomiting.
Greenbrier County is now red on the Department of Health and Human Resources county alert map. Morrison said she expects to see cases continue to rise across the county as the holiday season comes to an end, posing the risk of overwhelming local hospitals.
“The problem is that it is not just people with COVID-19 infections that will suffer,” Morrison said. “It is people that have any sort of accidents, heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, anything else because there are no beds or there is not enough hospital staff to take care of these patients.”
Morrison said vaccinations, including the booster shot, are crucial to preventing severe cases of COVID-19 and limiting the spread of the virus. She said booster shots are available at most local pharmacies, doctors’ offices and the Greenbrier County Health Department. To sign up, you can call your doctor or call the Health Department or a local pharmacy to book an appointment.
‘Vaccines, whether it is for COVID or it is for the flu, is one of our best ways to protect ourselves, our families and our communities,” Morrison said. “So, when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines, we have only had about ten percent of breakthrough cases of people that have been vaccinated and those people that do tend to contract the virus tend to have a very mild form.”
Just like the initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Morrison said the booster shot will not be fully effective until 14 days after it is received.