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"I worry that it could be here": County Health Director nervous about Omicron

Pima County Health Director nervous about Omicron
Posted at 6:21 PM, Dec 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 20:21:35-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — One of the most dangerous aspects of this virus is the speed at which things change. This morning, Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said: “I have no reason to think that Omicron isn’t in the U.S., I just think we haven’t found it yet.”

A few minutes later, the United States found its first case of the Omicron variant right across the border from Arizona. Dr. Cullen worries it could already be in Pima County.

“I worry that it could be here," Cullen said. "Remember it's coming through with individuals who are infected.”

TGEN reports that 99% of cases in Pima County are the Delta variant. But TGEN is only checking 8-15% of positive PCR tests for the omicron variant. This percentage is dependent on funding from the CDC and the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“Remember viruses, their goal is to live, their goal is to push out the one that was there before, so push out the delta and bring in the omicron,” Cullen said.

Dr. Cullen says despite the possibility that Omicron will soon become the dominant variant, people need to get their vaccines and booster. This would prevent breakthrough cases, and might protect against variants.

"We have little insight right now into whether there will be decreased efficacy with the current vaccine against Omicron. Given that we don’t know, I don’t think now is the time to be hesitant. Now is the time to get your booster.”

Dr. Cullen says we should go back to wearing a mask indoors and social distancing. That means for holiday gatherings…

“Stay small if they can, stay outside," Cullen said. "But now is not the time to decrease your vigilance about how to protect you, your family, your loved ones, and the community.”

With only eight ICU beds available in the county, theres no room for large gatherings.