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New Covid variant on global surveillance

By Tamas Mondovics
Editor

Only days following Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s statement on ending the current Covid-19 state of emergency,things became once again very real.
A new variant has emerged and is a great concern around the world and locally.
In a statement Lee said, “I am not renewing the Covid-19 state of emergency that expires tonight. For almost 20 months, this tool has provided deregulation and operational flexibility for hospitals and industries most affected by COVID’s challenges. Should our state face any future surges, we will consider temporarily reinstating this tool, but in the meantime, we are evaluating opportunities for permanent deregulation.”
Then came Omicron, also known as B.1.1.529.
On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the new variant, B.1.1.529, as a Variant of Concern and has named it Omicron.
While as of the writing of this article no cases have been reported in the US, 18 countries around the world have now confirmed multiple cases of the new variant.
The CDC issued the following details of the new variant, first reported to the WHO by South Africa. “We are grateful to the South African government and its scientists who have openly communicated with the global scientific community and continue to share information about this variant with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CDC. We are working with other U.S. and global public health and industry partners to learn more about this variant, as we continue to monitor its path.
CDC is continuously monitoring variants and the U.S. variant surveillance system has reliably detected new variants in this country. We expect Omicron to be identified quickly, if it emerges in the U.S.
We know what it takes to prevent the spread of Covid-19. CDC recommends people follow prevention strategies such as: wearing a mask in public indoor settings, in areas of substantial or high community transmission, washing your hands frequently, and physically distancing from others. CDC also recommends that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves from Covid-19 by getting fully vaccinated. CDC encourages a Covid-19 vaccine booster dose for those who are eligible.
Travelers to the U.S. should continue to follow CDC recommendations for traveling.
CDC will provide updates as more information becomes available.”
In the mean time many are making the effort not only to get vaccinated for Covid-19 but are also coming around to receive a booster dose.
To assist those seeking a booster shot the CDC released the following statement attributable to CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
“The CDC is strengthening its recommendation on booster doses for individuals who are 18 years and older. Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot
either when they are 6 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or 2 months after their initial J&J vaccine.”
Walensky emphasized that the recent emergence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) “further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against Covid-19.”
According to the CDC early data from South Africa suggest increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant, and scientists in the United States and around the world are urgently examining vaccine effectiveness related to this variant.
“I strongly encourage the 47 million adults who are not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible and to vaccinate the children and teens in their families as well because strong immunity will likely prevent serious illness.” she said. “I also want to encourage people to get a Covid-19 test if they are sick. Increased testing will help us identify Omicron quickly.”
Walensky strongly added, “And finally, to stop the spread of Covid-19 we need to follow the prevention
strategies we know work.”
That the pandemic is nowhere near over there is little doubt.
Locals are urged to take advantage of what is offered and follow local PPE guidelines.
Vaccines and booster shots are now offered at the Johnson County Health Department as well as selected local pharmacies.
For more information please visit www.CDC.Gov.
Or call the Johnson County Health department at (423) 727-9731.

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