Although the COVID Omicron variant was confirmed in three people in western Washington last week, that doesn’t change the recommendations from state health officials. They’re urging people to continue the precautions they’ve been taking to protect themselves and others from COVID – masking, distancing and, most important, being up to date on vaccines, the state Department of Health (DOH) said this week.
They’re also recommending that people get tested if they feel sick, before traveling, and before gatherings, particularly if attendees are at high risk for COVID – older people or those with certain health conditions. It’s particularly important for unvaccinated people to get a test before gathering with family or friends, state Secretary of Health Omair Shah said.
Omicron has been detected around the world since researchers announced the variant at the end of November, but they still don’t know much about it, DOH said. Early evidence suggests that it may be highly contagious but less apt to cause serious disease.
This is a time for concern, but not for panic, Shah said, noting that the Delta variant, which has been circulating widely in Washington for months and has proven to be highly contagious, is already a significant threat. “There’s plenty of reason to be concerned about what’s in front of us – the Delta variant,” he said.
Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalization and deaths from infection with the Omicron variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Even with a highly mutated virus like Omicron, we are not going back to square one of the pandemic,” Public Health – Seattle & King County Health Officer Jeff Duchin said. “Omicron may pose new challenges…, but compared to the early days of the pandemic, we know much more about COVID-19, and we’re better prepared for it.”
Health officials are recommending boosters for everyone 18 and older, six months after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The need for boosters is consistent with how vaccines work, because effectiveness wanes over time, Shah said.
In some parts of Washington, people may have had trouble finding a vaccine appointment as demand grew with the approaching holidays and the Omicron variant, but vaccines are widely available in Okanogan County.
Okanogan County stats
Okanogan County Public Health reported 61 new COVID infections for the week ending Dec. 5, continuing a decreasing trend of cases in the county. Four of the cases were in Twisp and two in Winthrop.
Last week, Public Health announced five more COVID-related deaths. All were men, one in his 50s, two in their 60s, one in his 70s, and one is his 80s. None were fully vaccinated, according to Public Health.
The county’s incidence rate per 100,000 population was 213, with a rate of 438 per 100,000 for unvaccinated individuals and 37 per 100,000 for vaccinated.
Three Okanogan County residents are hospitalized at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee. The hospital is treating 23 people for COVID, with nine in the ICU and seven on a ventilator. None of those in the ICU is fully vaccinated.
The percentage of the county population that’s vaccinated increased by only a tiny amount last week, from 56.1% to 56.2%. according to Public Health.
Get your vaccine
Free vaccination events are scheduled this week and every week throughout the county. For details and to register, go to okanogancountycovid19.org/covid-19-vaccine.
Friday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Winthrop Barn, all vaccines available for ages 12 and above.
Tuesday, Dec. 14, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Pateros Fire Station, all vaccines available for ages 12 and above. Register on site.
Friday, Dec. 17, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Okanogan County Fairgrounds, all vaccines available for ages 12 and above. Pfizer available for ages 5 to 11. Pre-register through link at okanogancountycovid19.org/covid-19-vaccine.