RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As the holiday rush picks up and the new omicron variant spreads, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and local health leaders are urging Virginians to remain vigilant.
In Richmond, Mayor Levar Stoney says cases are up 38% compared to last week. Local health leaders say regardless of vaccination status, testing will play a major role in keeping the infection rate down over the holidays.
It’s a similar message from the state level with health experts urging vaccinations and boosters. They also encourage testing before gathering with others, especially if you plan to visit family and friends who are vulnerable or who are at high risk for COVID-19.
“We may be through with COVID-19, but COVID-19 is not through with us,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “Unlike a year ago, however, we have tools to protect ourselves. The vaccines we have now are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to infection with the Omicron variant, especially among those who have received their booster dose. If you’re not vaccinated or have not gotten your booster dose, now is the time to do so.”
According to VDH, the rate of COVID-19 infections among unvaccinated Virginians has more than doubled since the beginning of last month.
“We’re experiencing an uptick in cases, prior to the detection of Omicron,” Doctor Julia Murphy, a State Public Health Veterinarian at the VDH, told WVEC.
Murphy warns the state could see a rise in hospitalizations because of the number of positive cases stemming from the omicron variant.
VDH is also urging Virginians to take precautions because of breakthrough cases.
The agency reports more than 72,000 breakthrough cases this year which makes up less then 2 percent of the vaccinated population in Virginia. Despite the low percentage, state health leaders hope unvaccinated Virginians will consider getting the shot.