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Monitoring Delta vs. Omicron into the Holiday season

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 4:13 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 13, 2021 at 10:05 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - While the world’s attention has shifted to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, health leaders warn we can’t let our guard down with Delta, which is still driving hospitalizations and deaths across the country.

“Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security,” health educator Doc Griggs said.

Although you don’t hear its name as much as Omicron anymore, Delta definitely hasn’t disappeared.

“It is still here and it is spreading,” Dr. Lucio Miele with LSU Health Genetics and Precision Medicine Lab said.

The U.S. has hit yet another grim milestone of 800,000 COVID-19 deaths.

“The 100,000 deaths before took 111 days. This last set only took 73, that’s concerning,” Griggs said. “That’s not Omicron, those are Delta and that’s here in the United States.”

Louisiana hospitals Ochnser and LCMC are reporting new COVID patients in the single and double digits across their systems over the past couple of weeks.

“We’re in a really good place with hospitalizations in the state,” Dr. Jeffrey Elder with LCMC said. “We’re at the lowest we’ve been since the pandemic really started and we want to keep it there.”

That still doesn’t mean we let our guard down.

“The thing to know about Delta is that it’s not a single variant anymore, it’s a family,” Miele said. “Delta has been reproducing and mutating and adding additional features.”

Through sequencing, researchers are identifying new mutations of Delta every day, finding some may be more common among vaccinated people. We even have our own mutation here in Southeast Louisiana.

“This could extremely rapidly change to Omicron dominant,” Dr. Amy Feehan with Ochsner said.

Omicron is proving to be more transmissible in some European countries.

“It’s going to compete with not just the original Delta, but all these other Deltas and whoever wins is going to be the virus that’s more contagious and has the best immune evasion,” Miele said. “The best thing we can do for ourselves is not be the field where this competition happens.”

Doctors say the best piece of advice is to get your shots.

“The storm has entered the Gulf, now it’s coming. Now is the time to be prepared. Not during the storm hitting and making landfall,” Feehan said.

Besides boosters and vaccinations, when you are preparing for the holidays, health experts recommend the usual social distancing and hand washing, but also wearing masks around immunocompromised family members and possibly even buying a few home COVID test kits, just to be safe.

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