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Dr. Gary Voccio discusses Omicron variant

January 3, 2022–8:55 a.m.


Omicron is now the dominant COVID-19 variant in Georgia.

Dr. Gary Voccio, health director for the 10-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest District explained the difference between Omicron and the previous variants.

“It seems to be affecting the upper-respiratory tract more than the lower respiratory tract,” he said.  “Some early studies published a couple of weeks ago said that it’s more inclined to affect the upper airways, kind of an upper-respiratory-type symptom more than a pneumonia-type symptom.  It is possible that is the reason why we’re not seeing it not as deadly as in the past.”

However, we are seeing numbers of infections that we have not seen in a year with hundreds of cases a week.

“This is the complicating factor,” Dr. Voccio added.  “I’ve talked to the medical professionals at the hospitals, and they are very concerned about this variant because they don’t have the staff to man the hospitals.  They are having to shift, and you may have to wait a lot longer in the emergency room before you get admitted to the hospital because they simply do not have the hospital personnel right now.”

As with previous variants, most of those who are having to be hospitalized are unvaccinated.

“It was over 90%, almost 100% a couple of weeks ago, and not it’s around 70% to 80% are unvaccinated,” Dr. Voccio said.  “So, there is a small number of people that are vaccinated who hospitalizations, but still, the overwhelming number who are hospitalized or have to go to the ER are unvaccinated.”

Remember, Omicron is highly transmissible.

Public Health officials continue to urge wearing facial coverings in public, social distance, and wash your hands frequently.