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Omicron Variant Shows Up in North Texas, But Delta Still Top Concern

Health

Omicron Variant on vial. | Image from DMEPhotography

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Texas saw over 6,000 new cases reported on December 16, with 419 cases of coronavirus being detected in Dallas County on that date.

The Denton County Health Department confirmed that the Omicron variant had been detected in Denton on December 14.

“The Omicron variant test result here in Denton County underscores what we already know: COVID-19 remains an ongoing pandemic and Denton County has continuing risk,” stated Dr. Matt Richardson, DCPH Director.

The main concern about the Omicron variant isn’t its capability of creating new symptoms or its intensity but its rate of community spread.

“The potential for this (Omicron variant) to very rapidly increase in number, quickly, is out there,” said Dr. Philip Huang, Director at Dallas Country Health and Human Services.

“Just to put in perspective,” says Steve Miff, CEO of the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation in Dallas County (PCCI), “what we’re talking about is, about 3.5 percent reproduction rate versus a 1.5 percent rate with Delta, so significantly higher,” Miff told KERA News. 

What is of more concern is how the Delta variant is changing the game in terms of gaining herd immunity. At the start of the pandemic, the number of infections suggested that herd immunity would be reached when seventy to ninety percent of the population became immune either by natural immunity (having COVID) or by vaccination.

As the virus spread and created variants such as the Alpha variant, which is fifty percent more infectious than the original coronavirus, the percentage at which herd immunity could be achieved became greater.

According to PCCI, every COVID-affected person can infect five to eight people. However, the Delta variant is allegedly sixty percent more infectious than the original COVID virus, meaning the percentage at which herd immunity is achieved would need to be greater.

“In terms of herd immunity…still the best thing we can do is make sure everyone receives the full course of the vaccination and then when they become eligible for the booster, they get it as soon as possible because we still have a lot of people who are not vaccinated. The overwhelming majority of people who are having severe illness, hospitalizations, and death are in the unvaccinated population,” says Huang.

Dr. Huang warns, “Delta is still out there and at this time the dominant variant that has certainly caused very severe disruption and illness, particularly in persons who are not vaccinated.”

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