Local health experts recommend COVID-19 vaccines, boosters and tests ahead of holidays

In hospital systems like Novant Health, they are seeing 87 percent of the people hospitalized with the virus are unvaccinated.
More than 1600 people are in the hospital across the state-- an increase of more than 550 from a month ago.
Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 6:11 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - COVID-19 is spreading quickly ahead of the holidays.

The delta variant continues to be the most dominant strain in Mecklenburg County, but health experts say that may not be for long, as omicron spreads.

Mecklenburg County is stuck around an 8 percent positivity rate, with a goal of 5 percent to end the mask mandate.

More than 1,600 people are in the hospital across the state, which is an increase of more than 550 from a month ago.

In hospital systems like Novant Health, they are seeing 87 percent of the people hospitalized with the virus are unvaccinated.

Dr. Jordan Lipton with Signature Health Care, a concierge medical practice in Charlotte, says they’ve done more testing over the past few days with more positive results than ever before in this pandemic.

He believes omicron is to blame, making people less severely ill, but infecting more.

“Our worries are that hospitals are going to start filling up with unvaccinated or immunosuppressed patients who otherwise, if it were not for this very rapidly spreading variant, wouldn’t need a hospital bed,” Dr. Lipton told WBTV.

To avoid contracting Delta or Omicron, health experts say get vaccinated, boosted, and tested before traveling or gathering with loved ones for the holidays.

“We’ve seen antibodies kick in just a few days after a booster shot, so don’t wait,” StarMed CEO Mike Estramonte said.

Vaccine lines moved quickly at StarMed on Monday, while people waited for more than an hour for a test.

Experts say it’s better to be safe than sorry, with Omicron causing different symptoms that you may not realize are associated with COVID.

“People who are vaccinated are sometimes just complaining of a runny nose or a tickle at the back of their throat,” Dr. Lipton said.

Dr. Lipton also recommends avoiding large gatherings in enclosed areas. He says if you do have a holiday party you should limit it to fewer than 10 people and require that people attending are vaccinated and tested upon arrival.

He also says high-risk individuals should avoid holiday gatherings altogether.

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