Health experts say watching the U.K. is a good indicator of Omicron’s future in the U.S.

Omicron variant expected to be dominant strain by January
Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 9:27 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 17, 2021 at 10:32 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Health leaders report the Omicron variant is the most significant threat to public health in multiple other countries. CDC officials report the variant is in 36 states.

Local health leaders said the Omicron variant is still unpredictable and it won’t be until a few weeks into January until we know really what it can do, but they said the best way to guess is by watching the U.K.

Dr. Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association said the U.K.’s COVID battle has been a good indicator of what is coming to the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, and Omicron is no different.

Right now, the new variant is the dominant strain there and officials predict it will be in the U.S. by early January, including in Alabama.

Williamson said the U.K. has seen a sharp increase in cases, topping around 88 thousand this week. He said that is a rapid increase, growing by around 20 thousand. He said since we have an even larger population, it will likely spread faster and to more people here.

“They are looking at major reductions, re-institutions, guidelines, that they had previously relaxed,” Williamson said. “Now, I’m not suggesting we will see anything like that, but I do think we will see a pretty substantive and frankly, probably surprising, rise in cases over the next few weeks.”

Williamson said Omicron is eight times more infectious than the original COVID strain and two times more infectious than Delta. While it doesn’t appear to cause as severe illness, he said the only way to prevent similar or worse numbers than the U.K. is the booster shot or vaccine series.

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