Lincoln County Mayor Bill Newman is reminding residents to be careful when it comes to the COVID-19 variant Omicron.

“The Omicron variant of COVID is spreading like wildfire,” Newman said. “Even vaccinated individuals are seeing breakthrough cases.”

Newman said the Pfizer oral antiviral drug has been approved but he has not been informed on the availability locally.

“Check with your medical professional if you have symptoms or have been exposed to a COVID-active person (first five days of clinical symptoms or a positive diagnosis),” Newman said. “The Merck antiviral is in the testing phase and you can apply to be a part of the testing.”

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“Please stay home if you don’t feel well, get tested and wear a mask when you are indoors or around others in close quarters,” the mayor recommended.

Newman said the best preventatives for COVID-19 are vaccinations, avoiding large groups indoors, wearing masks when in close contact to people of unknown COVID situations (indoors), practicing good hand hygiene and holding outdoor gatherings instead of indoor gatherings.

CDC guidelines

Given what we currently know about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is shortening the recommended time for isolation for the public. People with COVID-19 should isolate for five days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by five days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter, according to the CDC. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after, the CDC said.

Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for anyone in the general public who is exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days.

Alternatively, if a five-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure, according to the CDC. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.  For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at five days after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19, the CDC said.

Data from South Africa and the United Kingdom demonstrate that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35%, according to the CDC. A COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75%, the CDC said. COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. CDC strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccination for everyone five and older and boosters for everyone 16 and older. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our communities, the CDC said.

“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”