S.D. Health officials say too early to tell impact of Omicron variant

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The World Health Organization says the global risk from the new omicron variant is very high and that it will likely lead to surges of COVID-19 cases. So far there are no reported cases in KELOLAND.

“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” said President Joe Biden.

That cause for concern centers around how fast Omicron appears to be spreading and a number of mutations on the spike protein. The omicron strain has been confirmed in at least fourteen countries.
Now, new travel restrictions have been announced — from South Africa to the U.S.

Avera’s Dr. David Basel says there is still lot we don’t know, including how transmissible this variant is. How severe the illness is, and do the vaccines protect against it?

“They should protect but they may not, and so we’ve got to get answers to those key questions and we just don’t have those answers today yet,” said Dr. Basel.

What do you want people out there to know about this?

“Probably the most important thing is that still, the key is getting to current level Delta down as low as possible before any new variant shows up you want to get Delta down as low as possible and so the keys are still what they’ve always been. Get your vaccine, don’t go out if you are sick, get tested if you are at all sick, common cold symptoms that is still the key,” said Dr. Basel.

South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam Rydson says it could be up to two weeks before were have a better understanding of the impact of the Omicron variant.

“There has been some talk from South Africa that the illness has been relatively mild but again we need a little bit more time just to figure things out and in the meantime, I really would encourage people to get their information from trusted resources, that could include the South Dakota Department of Health and our website covid.sd.gov or the CDC,” said Malsam-Rysdon.

In the meantime, Malsam-Rysdon says the vaccines are safe and urges everyone to get vaccinated not only to protect themselves but slow the development of variants like Omicron.

“The concern is that it is new and it’s just not something that we are as familiar with but I want to remind people that we have seen variants of the virus that causes Covid before so we are just stressing that people stay calm use facts over fear and we are going to figure out what we need to do to beat this variant as well,” said Malsam-Rysdon.

“If you think back there were some other variants that we were initially pretty worried about the Brazil variant we were worried may come over cause us lots of problems and it really, in the end, was a nonissue because the hope is Omicron kind of burns itself out like that but I don’t know we can count on that,” said Dr. Basel.

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