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Cape-area health officials watching Omicron variant of COVID-19

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Barnstable County
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Analysis provided by Vaira Harik, Assistant Barnstable County Administrator. Currently there are no known Omicron variant cases on Cape Cod.

Local health officials are watching the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which was detected in the United States for the first time on Wednesday as cases spread around the world.

In Barnstable County, vaccination plans and advice haven’t changed, said county public health nurse Deirdre Arvidson.

“We're going to keep vaccinating; people are going to keep wearing masks when appropriate, or when asked to. I can't see what's going to change,” she said.

The case was identified in a person in California who had recently traveled abroad, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient was vaccinated and had mild symptoms.

Arvidson said the vaccination rate is high on Cape Cod, and she expects the existing vaccines to be at least partially protective against Omicron.

“I seriously doubt that the vaccine will have no effect on that variant,” she said. “I just can't imagine it.”

The state reports vaccination rates for people 12 and older have reached 95 percent on Cape Cod, 85 percent in Plymouth County, and 77 percent in Bristol County.

The rates on the Islands are over 100 percent because the numbers exceed population estimates from 2019.

Arvidson said her biggest concern about COVID-19 is for people who live in nursing homes and can’t protect themselves. Nursing homes should make sure they follow infection-control protocols and that everyone who enters is vaccinated, she said.

She said she agrees with President Biden’s message: Don’t panic.

“There's been enough of that,” she said. “People are already scared. People are dying because they're scared and they're isolated. So I don't want to see that happen, especially over the holidays, when people need to see one another.”