SAN ANTONIO – It’s going to be another COVID Christmas this year.
The average number of COVID cases is climbing again in our area and nationally the omicron variant is the one the CDC is seeing the most.
Eight days ago, the first two cases of omicron were confirmed in Bexar County— that number is now up to five according to a local doctor.
“We cannot prevent the omicron surge. It is surging around the world. It’s a matter of time before this becomes a dominant strain locally,” Dr. Anita Kurian, the assistant director of Metro Health said.
Less than a month after it was first detected in the U.S., the omicron variant has now become the dominant strain across the nation accounting for 73% of new COVID cases, according to federal health officials.
“We expect it to surge here as well. So there is no need to panic. How high the wave of the surge is going to be depends entirely on each one of us,” Dr. Kurian said.
Locally, we don’t know the full extent of omicron cases as the genetic sequencing to identify the variants takes 10 to 14 days.
Dr. Kurian says nationally, cases numbers are doubling every two days and those who already had COVID are not necessarily in the clear.
“Based on the latest assessment from UK, the risk of reinfection. Omicron at this time is estimated to be five point four times greater than the Delta,” Dr. Kurian said.
When it comes to specific symptoms that we’re looking for, there are some variations.
Dr. Ruth Berggren with UT Health San Antonio says some omicron patients have complained of sweating and body aches. She says for now it’s important to wait for more information before jumping to conclusions about severity.
“It may not be quite as lethal, but we can’t say that with certainty yet because we haven’t accumulated enough data and those data have not been peer-reviewed yet,” Dr. Berggren said.
There’s some disagreement between doctors on the severity of infections but all agree, the best way to protect against the omicron variant is to be vaccinated, boostered, and wear a mask if you’re in a crowded area.
With Christmas around the corner, Dr. Kurian says we should consider keeping celebrations local.
“If you can postpone or delay your travel plans, we recommend you do that. No travel at this time is is this the only thing that is risk free,” Dr. Kurian.
Dr. Berggren said she has Christmas recommendations for people who are vaccinated and those unvaccinated.
If your family is vaccinated and no one is immunocompromised, feel free to take masks off indoors if everyone is feeling healthy.
For those unvaccinated, she said she’s worried and they should only celebrate within their strict social circle.
If you still want to get vaccinated, Metro Health is offering a vaccination clinic at Travis Park from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
They’re offering Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, boosters, and flu vaccines.
University Health’s Wonderland COVID-19 vaccination center is open for walk-ins Monday - Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for this week and next. The center will be closed on Thursday and Friday of those two weeks.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be available.