Health officials react to newly identified COVID-19 variant

While positive COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations have dropped in Central Florida, health officials insist there is still public health threat

Health leaders are concerned about the new Omicron variant.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The newly identified coronavirus variant the World Health Organization named omicron has triggered concern worldwide and in Central Florida.

Seminole County Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty said he doesn’t believe it’s in the United States yet, but it certainly could be.

“This thing has more mutations than other coronaviruses, that’s concerning. It appears it’s highly transmissible, but they haven’t proven it,” Husty said.

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While positive COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have dropped in Central Florida, health officials insist there is still a public health threat.

“We all know what happened when the delta hit, it transmitted better because it made more copies of itself. Therefore, it could jump from person to person easier,” he said.

The potential risks and spread of omicron, first detected in South Africa and neighboring countries, is still unclear.

“In South Africa, it went from 200 cases a day to almost 3,000 cases a day in just like a five-day period of time, so suddenly, there is this new jump going on and it’s primarily the new variant,” Husty said.

WHO designated the omicron as a “variant of concern,” prompting President Joe Biden to issue air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries as a precaution.

Husty said this signals the pandemic is not over.

“If this is a more transmissible virus, we may not have immunity to this virus that would be bad. We need to pay attention because we could be back at square one,” he said.