The Omicron variant is here. How worried should West Texans be?

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Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 6:20 PM CST
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - It’s a word you might never have heard until just a few weeks ago: Omicron.

The latest COVID-19 “variant of concern” has been found in nearly 20 states, including Texas, and that number is expected to keep growing.

But how worried should we be here in West Texas? And how worried are our local hospitals, which saw an overwhelming number of hospitalizations from the Delta variant?

“It very well could be everywhere,” said Dr. Rohith Saravanan, the Chief Medical Officer at ORMC.

It might sound pessimistic, but it’s basic science.

The first case of Omicron was identified in Texas on Monday night.

Dr. Saravanan says it takes about 10 days for testing to show the type of variant a person is infected with, creating a lag in variant identification.

“We’re still doing quite a bit of data collection to see is it as transmissible as Delta, is it more transmissible than Delta, etc.,” Saravanan said.

Early data is promising. New research from South Africa shows the virus is less deadly than previous variants; however, it also appears to be more transmissible.

That research also shows vaccines still offer excellent protection from the new variant.

“That’s a positive sign for us hospitals to look at is even if there is an increase in the positivity rate, there might not be an increase in the hospitalization rate,” Saravanan said.

It’s still early in the discovery process, meaning more data could find something different.

But with Omicron. Omicron. Omicron, it still lags far behind the current most common strain.

“Despite the attention with Omicron and the attention it’s drawing, we have to still remember that Delta continues to be the main variant that’s circulating in the U.S. currently,” Saravanan said.