The Omicron COVID-19 variant has been confirmed as present in the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department (NNPHD) District through lab testing.

Although the variant tends to cause milder symptoms, this variant has the potential to infect many more people than its predecessor, the Delta variant, and thus cause increased problems. Omicron’s ability to cause more illness is thought to be due to its ability to be much more easily transmitted than Delta and has been shown to be able to cause illness in people who have been vaccinated or who have had COVID-19 in the past.

Julie Rother, NNPHD Health Director, explains, “When a virus variant causes many more people to be sick, that increases the number of people who could potentially become severely ill and need hospitalization. Increased case numbers can also lead to decreased numbers of employees who able to work including the number of healthcare workers available to staff hospitals. Our local, state, and national health care system is currently overburdened due to COVID-19.”

The good news is that the Nebraska data is showing that being fully vaccinated and boosted is still helping to prevent severe illness and the need for hospitalization. Over the past 4 weeks, unvaccinated people were 8 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people and 36 times more likely to be hospitalized than boosted people.

If you have not yet gotten your vaccinations or your booster and would like to lessen your chance of becoming severely ill from Omicron there are many places offering the vaccine for free. Several pharmacies in the health district offer the COVID-19 vaccine as well as some clinics.

Both Northeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership (NENCAP) and NNPHD offer the vaccine at various places in the health district.

See the NNPHD Facebook page for more information on where and how to access the free vaccine. Currently, only 50% of the residents of the health district are fully vaccinated and approximately 20% have received their booster.