Public Health Prepares Response to Potential Challenges Presented by Omicron
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) continues to track variant cases in Los Angeles County. While the Delta variant remains the dominate variant detected among LA County residents and continues to account for 100% of cases sequenced, the Omicron variant identified by the World Health Organization in South Africa as a “variant of concern” is being closely monitored as we work with others across the globe to prepare to mitigate the challenges a new variant of concern may pose for residents and workers across the county. This includes adhering to the travel restrictions issued by the White House and the CDC.
Although more studies are needed to determine whether the Omicron variant is more contagious, more deadly or resistant to vaccine and treatments than other COVID-19 strains, as with any variant of concern that is found in other countries, there are important steps we all need to take to protect ourselves from COVID-19 and from emerging variants of concern.
The most important strategy remains making sure that everyone 5 years and older gets fully vaccinated or receives their booster dose as quickly as possible to reduce transmission of the virus currently dominating across the county. The vaccines are effective against the Delta variant and earlier strains of the virus which allows us to remain hopeful that the approved vaccines will also provide some protection against Omicron. However, given that there continues to be substantial transmission of COVID-19 and we have uncertainty about the level of vaccine efficacy against this new variant of concern, all residents across LA County need to be sure to adhere to the masking requirements and wear a mask when indoors or at large outdoor mega events regardless of vaccination status. We continue to strongly recommend that individuals wear a mask when at any crowded indoor or outdoor events. Residents are reminded that they are legally required to isolate if they have a positive COVID test result and that vaccinated close contacts with symptoms and unvaccinated close contacts need to quarantine. Testing is an important tool in early detection of infection to reduce spread and we encourage residents who have traveled for the holidays to get tested if they traveled internationally or to locations in this country with high transmission rates, or they participated at gatherings and events with large numbers of people, some of which may be unvaccinated.
While we are still learning much about Omicron, we know enough about COVID to take steps now that can reduce transmission as we prepare to better understand the additional strategies that may needed to mitigate this new variant of concerns.