Local health leaders address new omicron COVID-19 variant

Posted at 10:10 PM, Nov 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-26 23:14:14-05

CLEVELAND — In the midst of holiday travel and celebrations, our state’s COVID-19 case numbers are not something Ohioans should ignore.

“We have a serious increase in hospitalization and we have serious increase in positivity which speaks to the fact that there's many positive people walking around,” said Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.

Friday's number of hospitalizations is the highest seen in weeks and Skoda said it could be even higher next week.

“I would say particularly since we had the Thanksgiving holiday, people traveled and there were individuals that they don't necessarily see often—they may not know their vaccination status,” said Skoda.

The rise is hospitalizations is an added concern after the World Health Organization identified a new COVID-19, highly transmissible variant of concern in South Afric called the omicron variant.

RELATED: Omicron variant: WHO says new strain of COVID-19 is a 'variant of concern'

The WHO suggested omicron could be more dangerous than the delta variant.

The U.S. is now restricting travel from at least eight African countries. Ohio health officials believe the ban will protect us from the new variant. It’s a big contrast from the delta variant, which was believed to be here before it was identified.

“The delta variant spread quickly before anyone had done their surveillance on it, so I think right now we are safe to say that I don’t think the omicron virus is here,” said Skoda.

Other than masking up, washing your hands and getting vaccinated, Skoda says Ohioans will have to wait and see if the travel restriction truly makes a difference in keeping us safe.

“We will just have to see the tracking and the surveillance and hopefully it won’t get to the magnitude that delta was able to get to,” said Skoda.

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