by: Gerry Ricciutti
(WKBN) — As cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 are on the rise again locally and nationally, another strain of the virus — Omicron — is catching the attention of healthcare experts and the White House.
Mercy Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Kravec said this was to be expected, even though it’s been nearly two years since the first form of the virus was discovered.
“The fact that we saw Delta, the fact that we’re seeing this new variant now, that’s what we see with viruses. So this isn’t a surprise. It will continue to happen, to be honest,” Kravec said.
At the White House on Monday afternoon, the President said early reports show symptoms with the so-called Omicron variant are milder than other forms of the virus calling it cause for concern, but not panic.
“We have the best vaccines in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists and we’re learning more every single day,” said President Joe Biden.
For now, experts believe getting fully vaccinated, including booster shots, may be the best defense.
“It’s not perfect, it’s not 100% but it will reduce the impact of the infection that you get,” Kravec said.
Dr. Kravec said as respiratory virus cases rise at hospital systems like Mercy Health, 80% of those hospitalized here with COVID-19 have never been vaccinated and almost all of the COVID-19 patients in the ICU have never been vaccinated.
“The numbers are very clear, they’ve been very consistent at Mercy hospitals, they’ve been very consistent across the state as we shared data with other hospital systems,” Kravec said.
In the meantime, President Biden said his administration will keep an eye on Omicron to make sure existing vaccines continue to be effective.
“My team is already working with the officials at Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for vaccine or boosters if needed,” Biden said.
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