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Spokane's top health official urges testing before travel, boosters as new variant emerges

Rebecca White/SPR

As a new COVID-19 variant emerges and holiday travel increases, health officials are urging people to get tested, and follow through on quarantine protocols.

Spokane Regional Health District health officer Dr. Francisco Velazquez says there is still not data that shows whether the Omnicron variant is more infectious than previous variants, but says people should be more cautious as they plan travel for the holidays.

“If you have symptoms, or you were exposed, or you think you were exposed to someone who was positive, get tested," he said. "If you’re going to travel, if you’re going to go somewhere, don't guess, just get tested."

He says people should consider ordering a take-home COVID-19 test now they can take before boarding a plane, or going over to a vulnerable friend or family members home.

He says people who have not gotten vaccinated should get a shot now and everyone who is eligible for a booster should get one.

"It’s a good time, there’s vaccine everywhere," he said. " That’s really good to do, regardless of Omicron or not, we still have COVID in the environment, and we’re getting into the holiday season, so we all want to make sure we can participate.”

Velazquez says there a still many unknowns surrounding the new variant, but the COVID-19 vaccine is still the best defense against it.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.
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