Even though Dallas County has not yet recorded a confirmed case of the omicron variant of COVID-19, officials say they are preparing as if it is already in the county.
They’re encouraging vaccination and other steps that have been used to combat COVID-19 through the pandemic.
Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang said the holiday season may promote the spread of the virus.
“Because it's getting cold, as people are inside more, closer together. We don't want to see that as what our coming weeks and months look like,” he said.
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A Harris County woman who did not have any recent travel history tested positive for the omicron variant, marking the first known case in Texas on Monday.
“It’s likely that omicron is spreading through many urban areas that we don’t know about yet. But the health experts’ advice on omicron is the same as it’s been on delta," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. "Get vaccinated if you’re not already vaccinated. Get boosted if your vaccination was some time ago. Wear your mask indoors."
Jenkins urged people who have COVID-19 symptoms to stay away from work and get tested.
Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch said the more contagious omicron variant could bring a more serious problem.
“We're just going to see all the things that we didn't want in terms of increasing transmissibility. The virus is going to be heading in that direction and people will be heading in that direction. So the policy implications from where I stand are that the most vulnerable are going to be intensely vulnerable once we reach that peak,” Koch said.
Huang said Dallas County was already promoting booster shots to improve protection for vulnerable people, but it is too early to make conclusions about omicron.
“There is evidence that it is very easily transmitted but there's some early evidence that maybe it's not as serious illness, but it's still early,” Huang said.
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price complained that supplies ran short at recent county-sponsored vaccination events, discouraging people that the county is asking to get vaccinated. He said there were not enough vaccine doses at one event and not enough promised gift cards at another.
“I expect them to have all the tools that they promise that they're going to have when we go in there. I've had a couple of hiccups and that is untenable,” Price said.
Officials said they are planning more vaccination events and securing more gift cards.
The health director said far more people are getting vaccinated at pharmacies and grocery stores than at the county’s events now that vaccines are widely available.