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May 28, 2022

Omicron variant knocks on San Benito County’s door

Health officials recommend booster shots to fend off contagious variant

With recent reports that the highly contagious Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus has reached San Benito County’s neighbor to the north, authorities are reminding local residents of the importance of seeking vaccinations and booster shots, as well as taking other measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

On Dec. 9, Santa Clara County public health officials reported the county’s first case of the Omicron variant. The patient who tested positive for the mutated coronavirus variant had recently returned from out-of-state travel and has been in isolation since testing positive.

Santa Clara County’s first Omicron patient was vaccinated but had not received a booster shot, according to authorities.

The Omicron variant has proven to be perhaps the most contagious mutation of the coronavirus, and San Benito County officials say it is likely to be found here any day.

“This news, in conjunction with rising case counts in the Bay Area, and across the state and the nation, serve as a reminder for residents to use all available preventive measures, including vaccinations and booster shots, plus masking indoors among crowds of people, to best protect themselves and the community,” says a press release from San Benito County.

On Dec. 9, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved Covid-19 vaccination booster shots for people ages 16 and 17. The county has begun offering Pfizer booster vaccine appointments for this age group.

“Although there are still many unknowns about this variant, we recommend in the strongest terms getting vaccinated and getting your booster, if you haven’t already, to help guard against both Delta and Omicron,” said Dr. George Gellert, San Benito County Health Officer. “Omicron is a new variant, but we know what to do, and that’s to continue with all our layers of protection: Vaccinate, boost, mask, ventilate, distance and test often.”

Gellert added it is now apparent that two initial shots of the Covid vaccination are not enough to protect against either the Delta or Omicron variants.

“We have come to understand that moving forward, the vaccines must include what we are calling booster shots in the basic vaccination schedule,” Gellert said. “Everyone whose last shot was six or more months ago (two or more months if J&J) should get boosted at this time, because the third dose is essential to getting the most powerful protection from the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and a second dose with the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.”

Officials noted that as the holiday season is upon us, people should stay mindful of risks. If people travel or gather for the holidays, they should:

– Get tested immediately before travel, upon return, and again 3-5 days later.

– Have everyone ages 5 and older get their Covid vaccine.

– Have everyone ages 16 and older get their Covid booster.

– Wear a mask indoors and in crowded settings. Wearing medical grade masks and adjusting masks so they fit tightly are important.

– Keep group gatherings small in both size and duration. Ask about vaccination status and wear masks if not all are vaccinated.

– Outside gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings.

– Be cautious around elderly or immunocompromised individuals, and consider Covid-19 testing before such interactions. These individuals should consider speaking with their doctors as there is now medication available to those most vulnerable to prevent infection.

Parents of very young children and those who have not been vaccinated should make sure to take all advised precautions, county officials said. Large and dense social gatherings should be avoided. Masks should always be worn in indoor public settings and in crowded outdoor settings (unless under age 2).

As of Dec. 15, a total of 8,067 people in San Benito County have tested positive for Covid-19. Seventy-nine local residents have died with Covid-19, according to the county’s website. 

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