Dec 22, 2021 - COVID

What to do about Omicron over the holidays

Illustration of simplified Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer, with a COVID ball as the nose.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

As we prepare to gather this holiday season, public health care experts say even the boosted will still need to be careful, thanks to Omicron.

The big picture: Health care systems are already overwhelmed, and a stunningly transmissible new COVID-19 variant that can produce breakthrough infections among vaccinated people is leading to fears of record cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Axios' Tina Reed writes.

  • In a Tuesday briefing, Gov. Jared Polis reiterated that the Omicron variant would be the dominant strain of the coronavirus in Colorado in the days or weeks ahead.

What they're saying: "We are absolutely seeing early impacts of Omicron here locally in Denver and seeing upticks in cases and outbreaks," the city's public health director Danica Lee tells us.

  • "The safest gatherings are going to be those at which everyone is vaccinated and boosted," Lee says.
  • She recommends getting tested before meeting with family members — specifically those who are immunocompromised and under the age of 5.
  • "If you don't have access to a rapid test, it's probably not worth the risk of potentially spreading COVID right now," Lee advises.

Yes, but: Tuesday was the deadline to get a more-accurate PCR test from the state and ensure results before Christmas Eve — and a lot of screening appointments were full, we found.

  • Denver vaccine testing sites and officials warned if you get one closer to Christmas, you may face a delay in getting results or appointments.

The bottom line: Coloradans who have received all three doses of the vaccine are 47 times less likely to be hospitalized with the coronavirus than people who are unvaccinated, state health officials say.

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This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard. Subscribe here.

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