BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Sunday, the CDC director told ABC News she expects the number of cases of the new COVID-19 variant to rise.
Three have been confirmed in Maryland so far as the state is already experiencing a surge in Delta cases during the holiday season.
“This might be just the perfect storm,” said Johns Hopkins lung doctor Panagis Galiatsatos.
According to state data, the case rate per 100,000 has been on the rise since the beginning of November. It’s at the same level now as it was in April, when vaccines were just becoming more widely available.
Doctors are now concerned because early data shows the new variant omicron is more transmissible than Delta, which currently represents more than 99% of cases in both Maryland and the country.
“Our biggest concern is it’s just easier to spread and if it’s easier to spread, it’s really going to find those individuals who have not been vaccinated yet,” said Galiatsatos.
Galiatsatos said it could take up to a week to figure out if a positive case is from omicron.
Comprehensive contact tracing efforts are underway to ensure that potential close contacts are quickly identified, quarantined, and tested.
“It seems to evade natural immunity so if you’ve had COVID before, your likelihood of catching omicron is gonna be high,” said Galiatsatos.
Scientists are still collecting data on the variant but one thing they know, it’s still an airborne virus so nothing changes about how we can protect ourselves.
“Even with the mutations, our weapons against it will still work. Distancing when you can. Face masking when you can and thus far, early data does show that the vaccines are likely to be effective against omicron,” said Galiatsatos.
Along with having symptoms, state officials recommend getting tested if you have recently traveled internationally because omicron has been reported in about 40 countries.