OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — The Oklahoma State Department of Health says the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been identified in Oklahoma as of Tuesday, Dec. 21.
“We have known for some time that COVID-19 is not going anywhere. The good news is, as new variants come on the scene, our resources in the state are plentiful. Early research is indicating that the mitigation methods we’ve been using to combat COVID-19 are still the best way to detect and prevent severe illness from the Omicron variant,” said Keith Reed, interim Commissioner of Health. “Getting your COVID-19 shot is the best way to protect yourself and others, even from new variants like this one. Wearing a mask, especially in crowded indoor places, can also help protect you from infection. And if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, tests can tell you if you are currently infected and are available at pharmacies across the state. Tests can also provide reassurance that your holiday gatherings are safe.”
Oklahoma health experts say right now, the effects of the omicron have not been strongly felt in Oklahoma, but that could soon change.
Health officials say they are seeing more and more breakthrough cases but say vaccination and boosters are still the best bet against the milder but highly contagious variant.
After weeks of no omicron in the Sooner State, OSDH confirmed on Tuesday the presence of the highly contagious COVID-19 variant in Oklahoma.
Although cases are on the rise, Oklahoma officials say our state has not seen the surge other parts of the country have experience with omicron.
“I don’t think we have seen the worst of this yet for some time. The omicron variant is spreading so fast we might go through it very quickly,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU’s Chief COVID Officer.
Experts say even though omicron is more contagious and is resulting in more breakthrough cases than other variants, national data shows most cases are not as severe and there are fewer hospitalizations.
But spotting the signs can be harder to do.
“Symptoms of omicron tend to be very mild or cold like so, have a high index of suspicion. If you have a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, headache is a prominent symptom, if you have those symptoms consider getting a test,” said Bratzler.
What is the best way to protect yourself from omicron? The advice hasn’t changed much.
“Get vaccinated, if you are eligible get your booster,” said Dr. David Kendrick.
Experts say the booster can increase protection in as little as a week.
“The side effects of boosters don’t appear to be that great and certainly no worse than the second dose of the vaccine,” said Bratzler.
Officials also believe, soon, being called “fully vaccinated” will include a booster.
“It’s unlikely that two shots of any vaccine is going to be appropriate or enough for COVID-19,” said Bratzler.
COVID-19 vaccines are readily available for everyone 5 and older at a variety of providers across the state.
Oklahomans can find a COVID-19 testing site near them using the state’s testing portal or by visiting a local pharmacy or personal provider.