Public health officials say Omicron variant is cause for concern

SOUTHERN OREGON, —President Joe Biden spoke Monday over growing concerns about the potential threat posed by the new COVID-19 variant Omicron. The president urged vaccinated Americans to get their booster shots, and once again pleaded with those yet to be vaccinated to get their first dose.

The president also said he didn’t believe there would be a need for lockdowns, like the ones seen last year. But he did say people should still wear a mask in crowded indoor areas. The president also did not anticipate any other travel restrictions but mentioned that could change depending on the spread of the virus.

As of Monday morning, Omicron has not yet been discovered in the United States, but that could soon change. Local health officials say it’s a cause for concern, but not for panic. The Omicron Variant was first reported to the World Health Organization by South Africa last week.

Jackson County Public Health Director Dr. Jim Shames says the variant has many changes to the spike proteins. That’s the part of the virus that invades our bodies and spreads the disease.

With the recent discovery of the variant, a lot of questions still remain. Dr. Shames says it’s unclear if it’s more infectious, will target different age groups, or how effective previous vaccines are in fighting it.

“Will the virus escape our ability to fight it? Will it evade the antibodies that we’ve built up from previous diseases or vaccines?  We just don’t know,” said Dr. Shames.

Dr. Shames stresses this is the time to get a Covid vaccine shot if you haven’t already.

To find out where to get vaccinated in Jackson county call 211.

Click here for the Oregon Health Authority Vaccine Finder or visit the Jackson County Health and
Human Services website.

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Jenna King
NBC5 News Reporter Jenna King is a Burbank native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at the U of O, she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through interning with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors, or binging on the latest Netflix release.