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Novant Health doctor says omicron variant coming to the Carolinas

Dr. David Priest, the chief safety, quality, and epidemiology officer at Novant Health, said the omicron variant seems to be more contagious than other variants.
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 6:16 AM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A doctor at Novant Health says the newest COVID-19 variant is likely already here in the Carolinas, and if not, will be in the next couple of weeks.

Dr. David Priest, the chief safety, quality, and epidemiology officer at Novant Health, said the omicron variant seems to be more contagious than other variants.

It’s rapidly spread around the world and it’s likely to present similar COVID-19 symptoms - the cough, fever, and shortness of breath.

Experts, however, said they need two weeks to see if omicron is more or less severe. Right now, there’s only anecdotal evidence about how it’s affected people.

While manufacturers study omicron and quickly work on changes that can be made to the vaccine to improve the response, Priest says don’t wait to get vaccinated. The current vaccine has been effective with variants and should continue to be.

“Even though those vaccines we have are not specifically made for some newer variants like the delta variant, it shows that having a vigorous immune response to earlier strains of SARS-CO-V2 seems to be protective against some newer strains like delta variant,” Priest said. “And that continues to support the idea that our best protection against current and future variants is vaccination and maintaining immunity.”

VACCINE TEAM: Complete coverage here

By the end of Thursday, cases of the omicron variant have been reported in five states – California, New York, Minnesota, Colorado, and Hawaii.

Going into the holidays, Priest said recommendations are the same: get vaccinated and encourage others around you too.

If families insist on a big crowd, health experts ask that people consider celebrating outside or find ways to avoid a lot of unvaccinated people in a room at once.

Another development in the fight against COVID-19 is the new pill the Food and Drug Administration just approved to help treat coronavirus patients.

That pill is now being offered in Charlotte through StarMed.

Related: StarMed now offers antiviral pill to treat COVID-19

It can treat people with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and has to be taken within five days of being diagnosed.

To get the pill, individuals can sign up for a virtual visit or go to one of StarMed’s testing locations to ask for a prescription. Everything is free.

Currently, the pill is only for high-risk adults who are over age 60 or people who have other conditions that put them at risk.

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