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Omicron now sweeping through Arizona

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 7:05 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The omicron variant is sweeping through Arizona. According to daily numbers released by ASU BioDesign, 92% of the cases in the state are now omicron, sweeping out the delta variant.

“If you look at the entire course of the pandemic, we have nothing to match that rate of rise,” said Dr. Joshua LaBaer, the Executive Director of the Institute. “This is the fastest rate of rise we’ve seen.”

It does not portend well for the next few weeks when cases are predicted to skyrocket because of the highly transmissible nature of the variant.

While Pima County health officials won’t say the spread is as wide as Maricopa County, they will concede it could be.

“There is no moat nor a wall around Pima County,” said Pima County’s Medical Director Dr. Theresa Cullen. “There’s no reason to think we won’t, if we’re not already seeing this similar numbers.”

Pima County uses a different method to determine spread and is about a week and a half behind the BioDesign Institute’s numbers.

What’s critical in all of this, is hospital space. While there is some indication that the Omicron symptoms could be milder, with a sharp rise in cases, it’s likely hospitalizations will rise too.

How much is unknown at this time but if the United Kingdom is any indication, the rise will be steep.

The UK, according to health officials, is about two weeks ahead of Arizona. It is 90% vaccinated and 60% boosted, far above Arizona. Hospitalizations have soared in the UK.

“In the next two to four weeks are very significant weeks for our county, we’ll need to keep a very close eye on what happens,” Dr. Cullen said. “And we will share with you any concerns or indications we are getting into significant trouble.”

Where there’s agreement is that vaccines, especially booster shots, are critical during the next few weeks.

“If you get the third dose, if you get a booster does, the protection goes from 25% to 75%,” Dr. LaBaer said. “So its huge bump in protction from a booster vaccine.”

When in comes to masks, it’s agreed the best protection comes from KN95 or N95 but it’s also agreed that wearing mask of any kind offers some protection.

“Any masks are better than none,” according to Dr. LaBaer.

“The best mask is the one you’re wearing,” said Dr. Cullen.

Testing is another component needed to combat the coming surge in Pima County, especially in home but they are hard to get. Many are getting them as a just-in-case insurance policy.

“We know that many people have taken test kits to have to have in storage,” said Dr.Cullen “That makes them available if they do get ill so they have access to it.”

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