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Kansas City won't escape omicron, COVID-19's newest variant

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The new COVID-19 variant means our mask-wearing days aren't over.

The standard advice for dealing with the coronavirus still holds true for the new variant.

How concerned you should be about the latest coronavirus variant depends on a number of factors, says virologist Gene Olinger of Kansas City's MRIGlobal.

"If you are an immunocompromised individual or a person who's not vaccinated, you should be very concerned," he warns. "If you're following good practices, you're vaccinated and you're doing the right thing when you need to, it's not that much of a concern compared to the current delta variant."

Olinger says that slowing the spread of omicron is still a matter of social distancing, wearing masks and avoiding large groups of people, especially indoors.

"As temperatures decrease, people go inside and, of course, you can see the increased rates of transmission that are going on," Olinger notes.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Mary Anne Jackson says the omicron strain is concerning "based on the fact that this particular variant has so many mutations of the spike protein that clearly are making it more contagious."

Locally, Jackson says the delta strain remains a matter of concern.

"Delta is still producing a significant number of cases, of hospitalizations and this will convert to deaths," she says, adding that "over the last four weeks, we have seen a trend for increases in cases and hospitalizations in both the child and adult populations."

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