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As omicron spikes, health officials urge caution when planning new year celebrations

Centers for Disease Control

As COVID-19 testing sites are overwhelmed and a new, more contagious variant spreads, state health officials are asking people to be more cautious when celebrating the New Year.

Delta and Omicron are now the most common variants in Washington State. Cases of omicron have been detected in 16 counties, including Spokane.

Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett, the Washington State Department of Health’s chief science officer says people should be more cautious, even if they are vaccinated and boosted.

“I don’t think this is something that everybody should cancel their new years plans, but I do think everybody needs to be aware of that the omicron variant is highly contagious, much more contagious than the delta variant,” he said. “If you are at risk, or have family members at risk for severe disease from COVID-19, consider that as you decide on your risk tolerance and prevention measures.”

In addition to other health precautions, going into the holiday health officials are urging people to wear a well-fitted mask that’s more protective than cloth or surgical masks, like an N95.

State health officials are also urging people to get tested at a mass testing site if they are symptomatic or had a close contact, and use at-home rapid tests if they are getting tested for any other reasons.

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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