Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

County Executive Marc Elrich and senior county officials said Wednesday they are not concerned about the omicron coronavirus variant, but are monitoring the situation and waiting for more data on how it is different from other strains. 

“I think the universal statement from scientists who I trust and respect is that this calls for some prudence, but not panic,” Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard told reporters at a news briefing. 

Elrich said he has directed health officials to look at personal protective equipment inventories, just in case there is another surge of cases due to the omicron variant.

According to the World Health Organization, the omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa late last month. The first case in the United States has been detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

Stoddard and James Bridgers, the county’s acting health officer, told reporters that the county will be reviewing more data on omicron in the next few weeks on its transmissibility and how sick it makes people versus the original strain and other variants.

Bridgers said data from medical journals and other literature indicate that the omicron variant is “highly transmissible,” but it’s hard to draw many other conclusions than that. Stoddard agreed.

“The literature right now is very interesting to try and read, because everyone’s trying to draw some greater conclusion from very limited data sets. And I would caution against us doing that,” Stoddard said.

Elrich, Bridgers and Stoddard urged residents to remain vigilant and practice good habits in trying to prevent the spread of the virus: frequently washing hands, physical distancing when possible in indoor spaces and getting vaccinated — including a booster shot — against the coronavirus.

All residents 18 and older are eligible for a booster, and can get any kind of vaccine: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson. 

Those who got the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccine can get their booster six months after their second dose. Those who got Johnson and Johnson can get a booster two months after.

Elrich and health officials urged patience as scientists work to learn more about omicron, and how it might be different than other strains of the coronavirus.

“We want you to enjoy this holiday season and we don’t want to see this virus getting out of containment, to be a bigger problem than it otherwise might be,” Elrich said. “We’re gonna know a lot more over the next two or three weeks. So stay tuned.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com

Steve Bohnel

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com