Florida leaders react to omicron variant, here’s what they say

Central Florida health leaders are urging people to get vaccinated if they can

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Medical experts say the omicron variant originated in South Africa and it has since reached at least 14 countries, including Canada.

In response, the United States, along with several other countries are restricting travel to South Africa. President Joe Biden said there is cause to be concerned but to not panic.

Meantime, Central Florida health leaders are urging people to get vaccinated if they can.

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“One of the myths I want to dispel about omicron is I might as well not get my vaccine because it’s not going to work. That does not appear to be the case at all,” Seminole County Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty said.

Husty is monitoring the latest data on omicron. He said more research needs to be done to learn its potential impact, but he said one thing is clear, it can likely cause major illness in people and that’s why it’s so important to get vaccinated.

“It certainly appears to be more aggressive than the delta variant and that’s concerning,” Dr. Husty said.

Biden told the nation he is not considering new shutdowns or lockdowns due to the omicron variant. Gov. Ron DeSantis said he won’t stand for new shutdowns or lockdowns.

“Whatever this variant is, the fact that you identify some in Southern Africa that does not mean that it’s not in any corner of the globe, it’s an airborne respiratory virus so I think those restrictions are not going to work,” Desantis said.

Meantime, we spoke with people at Barnett Park who said they got their booster shot Monday and feel more comfortable.

“I came to get tested. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, you want to make sure everything is good and I also came to get my booster shot,” Gregory Boykin said. “Viruses mutate and we know that. So I just think it’ll be safer to do my part.”

Meantime, as News 6 has reported in the past, some of the Central Florida municipalities, like Altamonte springs, test the wastewater for the variant. News 6 asked Altamonte Springs leaders Monday if they’re doing that for omicron -- and they said they are developing the test right now.

University of Washington Professor Ali Mokdad (he is also an Epidemiologist and formerly worked at the CDC)

“It’s very unlikely that the vaccines we have right now will have zero effectiveness against the new variant that is very unlikely, scientifically impossible,” University of Washington Professor Ali Mokdad said.

Mokdad is also an epidemiologist and used to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It will reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine for sure, but by how much, we don’t know yet,” he said.

About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.