Omicron variant expected to be dominant virus in Alabama

Alabama health leaders are convinced that the contagious Omicron variant is already in the...
Alabama health leaders are convinced that the contagious Omicron variant is already in the state, it just hasn’t been identified yet. But it’s expected to become the dominant virus, it’s only a matter of when.
Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 4:23 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama continues to see a slow increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations. So far, there are no reports of the very infectious Omicron variant in the state, but that is expected to change soon. Alabama health leaders are convinced that the contagious Omicron variant is already in the state, it just hasn’t been identified yet. But it’s expected to become the dominant virus, it’s only a matter of when.

The Omicron variant has been identified in every state surrounding Alabama. Studies are showing it’s twice as contagious as the Delta variant, which was six times more infectious than the original virus. “Increase in case load will go up fairly dramatically when Omicron becomes the dominant virus. Whether it drives up hospitalizations at the same rate that is still to be determined,” Dr. Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association said.

Dr. Williamson has looked at recent studies. It shows those who are vaccinated with the normal doses still face getting infected with the Omicron variant. Booster shots will help, but that is no guarantee that more people will be severely ill. “It will increase hospitalizations. Now will it increase them to the 3,000 to the level we dealt with last year or close to the 3,000 we dealt with in August and September? Probably not,” Dr. Williamson said.

Dr. Williamson offered a word of caution: Don’t think the Omicron virus is not a threat. The United Kingdom has reported a death from the Omicron variant. The head of the Alabama Hospital Association said your best bet is to get vaccinated and if you are eligible, get those booster shots. “it may not keep you from becoming ill, but if you get ill with Omicron it will be much more mild,” Williamson said.

Omicron is expected to start seeing increases soon in Alabama. There are CDC projections showing where it surges in January. Another projection shows an increase more in the spring.

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