Infectious disease expert: Omicron variant should not hinder holiday activities for vaccinated North Carolinians

Dr. Christopher Ohl says even if the variant breaks through vaccines, he does not believe it will render the vaccines ineffective altogether.
Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 6:44 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A new variant of COVID-19 is expected to arrive in the United States soon.

On Monday, President Joe Biden said it’s okay to be concerned, but we do not need to panic.

Travel restrictions from eight countries in southern Africa are in effect, giving U.S. officials time to plan. The Charlotte Douglas International Airport was busy with post-Thanksgiving travel.

“Fully masked, fully vaccinated, fully boosted, the whole bit,” Milton Clark, who was flying home from Charlotte on Monday, told WBTV.

Even with the Omicron variant looming, Dr. Christopher Ohl, an Infectious disease expert with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, said the holiday festivities can continue.

“I don’t think it will be anywhere near the height of the surges we had last year or even potentially from the Delta variant in August and September,” Dr. Ohl said.

With many more mutations than Delta, he says Omicron seems to be more transmissible.

But he says even if the variant breaks through vaccines, he does not believe it will render the vaccines ineffective altogether.

“My prediction is that it will still largely prevent hospitalization and serious disease and if you’ve been boosted it will give you even more protection,” he said.

Susan Roseboro, an English healthcare worker, checked in for a flight to London on Monday after seeing her family in Charlotte for the first time in two and a half years.

“I have to go for a PCR test on Thursday and isolate until then,” she said.

She says those extra steps are worth it, and she has a message for families making plans for Christmas.

“We have to get back to our lives,” she said. “It’s safe to travel, but be sensible, wear a mask, get vaccinated.”

Dr. Ohl said the good news is scientists are already looking into adjusting the vaccine to target Omicron if necessary, but until then it’s important to get a booster shot.

Testing ramps up post-Thanksgiving holiday weekend

At StarMed in west Charlotte, COVID-19 testing increased Monday following the holiday weekend. In line, were also people getting vaccinated.

Ivory Purnell says the concern surrounding the Omicron variant led him to get his booster shot.

“I saw it on television that the new variant Omicron, and I thought the safest thing to do is make sure my kids are taken care of. I have a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old,” said Ivory Purnell.

Health experts are continuing to encourage Americans to get vaccinated.

“Today is a super exciting day. My six-year-old gets her second vaccine, we’ve been waiting for this day. I can tear up, I’m so excited about it,” added Mollie Lyman.

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