“Yesterday we tested a thousand people at our site."By Andrea Alvarez

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – As the Omicron variant spreads, new concerns arise on whether people should be gathering for holiday celebrations for a second year during the pandemic. According to the CDC, Omicron is now the dominant strain in the U.S. and has many wondering if you’re protected at all after getting vaccinated.

“We do know that Omicron is much more transmissible and those that have been vaccinated can still get sick,” said Dr. Allison Messina, Chief of Infectious Diseases, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

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President Joe Biden announced Tuesday The White House’s efforts to fight the rapidly-spreading variant. Among those efforts are access to millions of free at-home Covid-19 tests, more vaccination sites, and support for hospitals that are becoming overwhelmed.

“The staff that works in hospitals can also be sick. But if they have to be out of work, we could face a lot of staffing shortages and that impacts how many patients we can care for as well,” said Dr. Messina. “At [Johns Hopkins] All Children’s Hospital today, it’s not super bad yet, but given how rapidly we know that this variant is spreading, we expect that we’re going to have to keep an eye on our senses literally day-by-day.”

Deputy Director of Hillsborough County Emergency Management and Operations Section Chief Iñaki Rezola says the vaccine and boosters are still your best bet against becoming infected.

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“Yesterday we tested a thousand people at our site. That’s the highest number of folks we’ve tested since that site opened,” said Rezola. He says the demand of Covid-19 testing has jumped in Hillsborough County with more than three thousand tests done since Friday.

“Part of that we anticipated because of upcoming holidays and the new Omicron variant,” said Rezola.

Retail pharmacies are an additional option for testing as county officials have narrowed down testing sites to one.

“As we’re going into the end of the year we just consolidated to make it more efficient and if the need arises that the resources in our community become overwhelmed, then we’ll assess whether we need to open up additional sites,” said Rezola. “Recently we’ve combined all our services, both for Covid-19 testing, vaccination, and monoclonal treatment to our West Tampa Community Resource site.”

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Health experts aren’t fully aware of all there is to know about the variant yet and say it could take weeks to develop a treatment. Stick with CW44 News for those developments.