FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Just a day after it was reported that the first case of the Omicron variant was detected in Indiana, the Allen County health commissioner said he expects the variant to spread “fairly quickly” throughout the state.
And he’s concerned.
“I suspect that this is not the only case,” said Dr. Matthew Sutter. “It takes a while before we can find it and sequence it. It could change things for us.”
Although COVID cases are slightly down this week and the county is likely to go back to the “orange status,” Dr. Sutter said that shouldn’t last long. His guess is that Omicron will cause another surge, likely at the end of December or sometime in January.
That surge would also mean a return to the “red status,” Dr. Sutter said.
The health commissioner added that the Omicron variant shares the same symptoms as previous variants such as nasal congestion, cough, body aches, fatigue and abdominal pain.
He said it is also common for people who’ve previously had COVID-19 to become infected with Omicron.
“There’s some early indications that if you’ve recently been vaccinated, or if it’s been more than six months and you’ve got a booster, you may have pretty good protection against infection” said Dr. Sutter. “We’ll have to see how this actually rolls out. But, my advice to people is, if you have not previously gotten vaccinated, now’s the time to.”
Time is a concern, too. As if the Omicron variant and case counts aren’t enough, the health commissioner has yet another worry: the proximity to the holidays.
“It’s difficult to safely gather when cases are this high,” said Dr. Sutter. “Every time we have a major holiday, we will gather together, we’ve seen a big bump in cases, and I expect that will be the same over these coming holidays… I’m certainly concerned.”
Dr. Sutter also stressed that people can spread COVID-19 without having symptoms. He said the best way to protect yourself in public, or when gathering with family over the holidays, is to wear a mask and stay socially distanced, in addition to getting vaccinated.
He also recommended Hoosiers take at-home COVID tests before gathering together.
“If you’re vaccinated and gathering with a group of vaccinated people, and everybody’s doing a test the same day, your risk is really really low for spreading or for having serious disease,” said Dr. Sutter.”
If you do test positive with an at-home test, Dr. Sutter added that you should also get an official test at a site to confirm it.