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Epidemiologist: Take precautions for holidays, get booster shots

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AdventHealth’s COVID-19 inpatient census remained stable Thursday despite increased spread in the community, said Dr. Vincent Hsu, executive director of infection prevention for the health care system, at a news conference.

About 120 people are hospitalized across AdventHealth’s seven-county region, a number that has remained relatively stable since the end of the Delta surge that peaked in August at 1,700 hospitalized patients.

Hsu cautioned that it’s too soon to know if Omicron would drive another rapid increase of hospitalizations, but called the stability so far a positive sign that Omicron infections could be more mild.

“So far we are not seeing a surge in COVID patients with Omicron,” Hsu said, though he noted the newest variant appears to be far more transmissible than earlier variants.

The single-day positivity rate at the AdventHealth Centra Care urgent care clinics has more than quadrupled in recent weeks to nearly 27%, representing a continued rise from earlier this week when the daily rate reached 21%.

Hsu noted that just because many new cases could be milder, stopping community spread is still as important as earlier in the pandemic because older people or those who are more vulnerable because they are unvaccinated or are immunocompromised could still develop severe or life-threatening illness.

“There is nothing worse than transmitting a virus to a loved one that could have been prevented,” Hsu said.

He recommended people take a COVID test as soon as they detect symptoms and noted that at-home test kits are reliable for the Omicron variant. He also recommended masking over the holidays along with washing hands and social distancing.

He said people who have received third doses, or boosters, of the vaccine have the most protection from the new variant.

A review of records related to patients who recently tested positive at AdventHealth Centra Care showed that most of the people with breakthrough infections had not received a third dose of the vaccine. Only about 4% of positive cases were found among people who already had the booster shot.

People who are experiencing sinus congestion, stomach upset, fever or other symptoms should seek a COVID-19 test as soon as they begin to feel ill. COVID and flu tests are available at AdventHealth Centra Care.

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