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Health care leaders say the Omicron variant will likely be widespread in Wisconsin within weeks

Posted at 6:24 PM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 19:28:17-05

FOX VALLEY, Wis. (NBC 26) — The delta variant has filled hospital beds across the state and public health leaders said today that the omicron variant will likely be Wisconsin's most dominant form of COVID within weeks.

On Friday during a community conversation hosted by ThedaCare, public health leaders predicted that within weeks omicron will likely be the dominant form of COVID-19 in northeast Wisconsin.

"It reinfects people who were previously thought to be immune. That's what you have to have in your heads," said Frank Mellon, ThedaCare's Senior Innovation Executive as he stressed how boosters and vaccinations can help prevent hospitalizations.

What is known about the variant is that it moves fast and spreads quickly. Current estimates have found that cases of the new variant double every three days.

"Think of this as if we were the weather service, we are letting you know that there is a category five hurricane coming at us," says Dr. Imran Andrabi the President and CEO of ThedaCare.

The positive news is that people who contract omicron are about 30 percent less likely to be hospitalized when compared to those who contract the delta strain. But hospital beds across the region are terribly limited as is, and hospital leaders are concerned.

"We don't have beds to place them in our own facilities and there is nowhere to transfer patients to," adds Dr. Andrabi.

Public health leaders are currently experiencing the highest rate of COVID infection our region has seen since before we had vaccines available, and with a more transmissible variant starting to infect our community they're sounding the alarm.

"It's very clear that we are right at the edge of a very serious event in the pandemic," says Doug Gieryn a Health Officer at Winnebago County Public Health.

One clear solution to help keep people out of the stressed hospital system according to doctors is to get vaccinated and your booster shots, as soon as possible.

"We are on the edge of our opportunity to make a meaningful impact on what is coming right now," adds Gieryn.

Because as doctors have stressed since the introduction of vaccines a year ago, vaccines have been proven to help prevent serious sickness from the virus, and in turn, have kept many people who are infected out of the hospital.

"I haven't been this concerned in the last two years in the pandemic as I am today," adds Dr. Andrabi.