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Local health care providers monitoring for COVID-19 omicron variant

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 5:17 PM CST
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QUINCY (WGEM) - The Adams County Health Department and local health care providers are monitoring developments with the omicron variant of COVID-19.

A Blessing Hospital doctor said they expect holiday gatherings to result in more COVID-19 cases in the community and more hospitalizations. There also is concern the new COVID variant could amplify that.

Blessing Health System Chief Quality and Safety Officer Dr. Mary Frances Barthel said 28 of the 37 COVID patients in the hospital are unvaccinated. All of the 4 ICU patients are unvaccinated.

“Which is a pretty big jump from last week,” Barthel said. “Last week, we were running around 20.”

Barthel said they watched cases rise before Thanksgiving and anticipate they’ll continue to rise in the coming weeks. Now they’re preparing for the Omicron variant.

“What we know so far about the new variant is that it is likely to be more contagious, and it’s also associated with a higher likelihood of a reinfection,” she said. “So even among patients who have had COVID already, there’s a higher likelihood that they may become infected a second time.”

Adams County Health Department Infectious Disease Supervisor Jon Campos said no cases of the new variant have yet to be identified in the country or county.

“If the United States starts to see a variant like this, we should hopefully know about it within weeks of it, coming to our country,” Campos said. “And then once that happens, then we’ll make preparations to depending on if it is more vaccine resistant or if it ends up being more contagious.”

Barthel said they’ve identified 32 mutations in the variant. She said it spreads more in regions with low vaccination rates.

“That’s what they saw in South Africa with only 25% vaccinated rate,” Barthel said. “So you know, the lower the vaccine rate, the higher the spread, and the higher the likelihood of new variants.”

Health officials said the best way to stop the variant is to get vaccinated and maintain good hygiene like handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing.

The Adams County Health Department offers free vaccinations from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Officials at the health department and hospital said they don’t have the ability to sequence and monitor individual cases for the variant. All of that is done at the state level, which will eventually be reported via IDPH.

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