Local expert urges safety but not panic over COVID variant

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 7:16 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Both Georgia and South Carolina’s health departments are keeping a close eye on the new omicron variant, but as of right now, COVID cases are nowhere near what we saw at the height of the delta variant outbreak.

On Monday, Augusta-area hospitals had a total of 58 COVID patients. Back in September at our peak, we had 398 COVID patients in local hospitals.

The words “COVID” and “vaccine” are likely the most-used words this year, although arguably the most-used phrase would be “wait and see.”

The situation now with the omicron variant is no different.

“We don’t know very much,” said Dr. Roger MacArthur, an infectious disease expert at Augusta University Health.

The fact that the virus is mutating is nothing to freak out about.

“Not all mutations make the virus more deadly. Not all mutations make the virus easier to spread,” said MacArthur.

We don’t know for sure exactly where the mutation started.

“It probably originated in a country where there was a low vaccination rate,” he said.

Vaccination rates in some of the southern region of Africa are low. Namibia, for example, stands at a vaccination rate of 22 percent according to the World Health Organization. In Georgia, our number is 51 percent fully vaccinated.

Here at home, though, the advice stays the same, regardless of the new variant.

“With that in mind, if you do all that – get the first two doses, get a booster. Masks become secondary,” said MacArthur.

And while this new variant makes headlines, we’re told it’s nothing to ring alarm bells.

“My take-home message would be don’t panic. Just because there’s a new variant doesn’t mean that it’s going to be more deadly or spread more easily than what we currently have,” he said.

For now, we will just have to wait and see.

Experts are still working to figure out how effective the vaccine is against the new variant.

But we know it is safe and effective against the largely predominant delta variant and health experts say the vaccine is still your best protection against severe illness and death.

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