Amid Omicron Concerns, LA County Urges Mask Wearing, Testing, Vaccinations – .

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Amid Omicron Concerns, LA County Urges Mask Wearing, Testing, Vaccinations – .


Amid growing concerns about the new Omicron variant, Los Angeles County health officials are urging the public to wear masks in indoor public places and at outdoor “mega-events” and to get vaccinated as well. the best way to protect yourself against another winter wave.
The variant, first identified in South Africa amid a spike in infections there, has more mutations than all scientists have seen, including some that may make the virus more resistant to immunity generated by infections or previous vaccines. But not much is known, including whether the variant is more transmissible, causes more serious disease, or reduces the effectiveness of vaccines.

LA County officials agreed that there is still a lot to know about the variant, but “we know enough about COVID to take action now that may reduce transmission as we prepare to better understand additional strategies that may be needed to alleviate this new variant of concerns ”.

Among the key actions the county urged in a bulletin:

  • Individuals wear a mask at any crowded indoor or outdoor event and adhere to indoor mask requirements in public places.
  • Residents isolate, as required by law, if they have a positive coronavirus test result and have vaccinated close contacts with symptoms and unvaccinated close contacts in quarantine.
  • Residents who have traveled for the holidays should be tested if they have traveled abroad or to places in this country with high transmission rates, or if they have participated in rallies and events with a large number of people, some of whom may not be vaccinated.

The World Health Organization on Friday named the new variant Omicron and quickly listed it as a variant of concern. The news prompted several countries, including the United States, to restrict travel from South Africa and other African countries. U.S. travel restrictions take effect Monday.

The variant has also been found in travelers to Israel and Hong Kong; Germany and Italy reported cases on Saturday afternoon.

While scientists can make educated guesses about the behavior of the variant based on its genetic structure and initial reports, more testing and observation is needed.

While no case of the Omicron variant has been detected in the United States, many experts say it may already be there, given the country’s reported lack of systematic genomic sequencing.

It was initially suggested that the new variant causes a generally mild illness, based on many cases followed in South Africa. But some scientists have warned that this suggestion could be based more on the fact that these were younger, healthier people whose cases were reported early, and that it is really too early to know if this variant. causes more severe disease than the existing variants.

“It is not inevitable that viruses mutate to become less pathogenic and virulent,” said Dr Michael Mina, an epidemiologist formerly affiliated with Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, in a report. tweeter.

While scientists can make educated guesses about the behavior of the variant based on its genetic structure and initial reports, more testing and observation is needed.

Nearly 64% of Californians are fully vaccinated, according to the Times vaccine tracker, but that number is too low to curb a fifth wave of COVID-19 expected this winter. There has been an increase in demand for vaccines among 5 to 11 year olds, and interest in booster vaccines is increasing, but officials are concerned about the low vaccination rate among young adults.

LA County officials said in the bulletin that continued vaccinations were essential.

“The most important strategy remains to ensure that anyone 5 years of age and older is fully vaccinated or receives their booster dose as quickly as possible to reduce transmission of the virus that currently dominates the county. The vaccines are effective against the Delta variant and earlier strains of the virus, which gives us hope that the approved vaccines will also provide some protection against Omicron, ”the county said in a statement.

California health officials also called for caution on Sunday.

“California is keeping a close eye on the new Omicron variant, which has yet to arrive in California or the United States. Vaccines continue to be our best way to weather the pandemic by safely protecting us against serious illnesses from COVID-19 and its variants. We are doubling down on our immunization and recall efforts to ensure all Californians have access to safe, effective, and free vaccines that can prevent serious illness and death, ”said Tomás J, state public health official. and director of the California Department of Public Health. Aragon in a press release.

Officials said they were “preparing to increase COVID-19 testing at California airports for U.S. citizens and legal residents returning from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, ‘Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi’.

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