North Texas officials are keeping an eye on the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron. As the winter months set in, concerns about people staying indoors in close quarters have moved officials to closely monitor the daily COVID-19 count as well as the progression of the latest variant, Omicron.
The first case of the Omicron variant in the US was confirmed on Wednesday in a patient in California. A second case was confirmed later the same day in Minnesota. Both patients were tested in November when they experienced mild symptoms, and both have since recovered. So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Texas, however, that could soon change.
One infectious disease expert who spoke with The Dallas Morning News believes it is only a matter of time before Omicron lands in North Texas. “I don’t think it’s really a question of if, but really more of a question of when,” said Dr. James Cutrell, the associate professor of medicine in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
The Omicron variant was first detected in November in South Africa. The variant has roughly 30 mutations, some of which enable it to spread more easily, per the AP. This has scientists concerned and has triggered several countries to enforce new travel restrictions.
Meanwhile, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is calling for the use of indoor masks and an increase in vaccination rates, according to NBC DFW. “The most important thing you can do for you and your family is get vaccinated, get your booster when it’s time to get it. The second most important thing you can do is wear your mask,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.
Jenkins added, “These are not requirements that I made up with some political advisors. These are things that the doctors and big hospitals train their entire life to deal with in public health. This is what they say we need to do to have a good holiday season where we are healthy, where our businesses and our economy [are] strong.”
Currently, many businesses in Dallas County are asking patrons to wear masks, but some surrounding counties are not implementing the same measures.
During a press conference this week, President Biden expressed his perspective that “this variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”