Local health official wants people to take precautions ahead of New Year’s celebrations


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – With coronavirus cases rising in large part due to the spread of omicron, one local health official wants people to stay alert and practice safety entering the New Year’s weekend.

Dr. T. Ryan Gallaher, an infectious disease specialist for Vidant Health, said other countries have noticed the per-patient severity is lower, but because omicron is more transmissible, there are more hospitalizations.

“It is logarithmically increasing and it’s safe to say that most definitely most of the variants are omicron at this point,” said Gallaher.

Vidant Health officials say since late November, there’s been a 222% increase in the weekly average of the positivity rate in the region, with a 150% increase in the total number of COVID-19 positive patients in hospitals. Among those positive patients, 101 out of 120 of them are unvaccinated.

“We did expect this, we saw the tsunami coming towards us from other places in the world and also the western part of the state,” said Gallagher.

He also said viruses tend to mutate towards better survivability and in order to do that, they tend to go towards being more contagious, but less severe.

“It’s probably consistent with what a lot of viruses do, they are under a lot of pressure whether its vaccination or prior immunity from the previous infections and they tend to just mutate then if the mutation works great, then it can spread and gather steam,” Gallagher said.

Earlier this week, the CDC shortened the time for isolation from 10 days to five days. However, Gallaher still stresses the importance of protecting yourself and others, as well as getting tested.

“My pitch and my plea, and I use that word very honestly, to please, please, please, please, please, get vaccinated,” Gallaher said.

Ahead of the New Year’s celebrations, Gallaher is asking everyone to remember the three Ws: wash your hands, wear your mask and watch your distance.

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