Omicron may be near “plateau” in Greene County but it's too soon to tell and local hospitals are “nearing operational capacity,” according to Springfield-Greene County Health Director Katie Towns during a Monday report to city council.
As of that presentation, 771 Greene County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 on average each day in the past week and 238 people were hospitalized in Greene County with 61 of those in critical care.
Based on genomic sequencing data, more than 70 percent of Greene County cases are of the omicron variant. Towns emphasized omicron should not be taken any less seriously than any other variant.
“There continues to be a misconception that omicron is not concerning. The characteristics of this variant are different from past variants. However, even if omicron causes milder symptoms in some individuals, it still has the potential to lead to severe illness, hospitalization and death.”
The best way for individuals to protect themselves continues to be vaccination.
“Unvaccinated adults are 16 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 as those who are fully vaccinated, compared to those who are vaccinated and have received a booster dose. High risk unvaccinated adults are 49 times more likely to be hospitalized because of COVID-19,” Towns said.
Locally, the number of cases per 100,000 people who are unvaccinated is more than double that of the case rate for those who are fully vaccinated. Compared to those who are boosted, the unvaccinated are more than six times more likely to contract the disease.
“We want everyone to know that changing your mind in deciding to get vaccinated is completely OK. There's a lot of information out there and it's not all good. And a lot of it can be confusing. We know this and that's why our department continues to be a resource for those with concerns,” Towns said.
Masking for omicron, what's available in Springfield
In addition to vaccination, proper masking is important for protection of the community. The CDC now recommends the use of surgical or higher-grade masks, in favor of cloth ones. Towns said cloth masks are still more effective than no mask, especially if one wears two cloth masks.
To meet the demand for surgical masks, the health department is distributing 50,000 free surgical masks through Greene County’s public libraries. According to Towns, these free masks are in “very high demand.”
“We're evaluating our ability to extend this opportunity by securing more masks and providing those to more individuals,” she said.
Asked if omicron has peaked yet in Greene County, Towns said it was too soon to know.
“We’re sure hoping we've started to see what we are hoping could be at least a little bit of a plateau. But it is too soon to say that conclusively… so I'm hopeful. We do know that there are other places in the state that have started to turn the corner. So we're hoping that we follow suit very soon.”
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Omicron variant could peak in Greene County, but hospitals still full