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Central Georgia doctor says people should continue following safety measures amid Omicron variant

Dr. Jennifer Hoffman says the concern is that the mutations in Omicron may cause the variant to partially outweigh vaccines or prior immunity.

MACON, Ga. — According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was found in a Georgia resident Friday, and the CDC says it has been found in at least six states including Nebraska, which also joined the list Friday.

Many of you in Central Georgia have been asking whether to be concerned about Omicron.

In April, Terrence Cain got the COVID-19 vaccine.

"It's just staying safe rather than sorry for me. I know a lot of doctors and nurses. Just the research that I've seen, I trust the research, so it was a no-brainer for me," Cain said.

As a new variant continues to spread across the nation, some are questioning if the vaccines will provide enough protection.

"The first thing that I'd like to emphasize is that there's so much that we don't know about this new variant," said Jennifer Hoffman, the infectious disease physician with Piedmont Medical Center.

Hoffman says the variant is new and tests are still being run.

"What we do know is that Omicron has over 30 mutations to the spike protein, which is much more than other variants we have had," Hoffman said.

Hoffman says the concern is that the mutations may cause the variant to partially outweigh vaccines or prior immunity.

"Our rates here in Central Georgia are still low. We're still looking good. That said, I expect that sometime in the relatively near future, that will change. If Omicron is already in 5 or 6 states, then it's going to be here before we know it -- if it isn't already -- and like I said, it's strikingly contagious," Hoffman said.

Hoffman says she's not alarmed just yet, based on recent data. 

"I want to see if it holds true in the long term that vaccinated people still get very mild cases. If that is true, we're not in terrible shape. If people go get their vaccines, then they're going to be fine," Hoffman said.

Until there is a sure answer, Hoffman urges people to keep following the safety precautions. 

Those include wearing masks, social distancing, and getting the vaccine and booster shot. 

Cain says that's what he plans to do. 

"To me, this is the nature of science. We don't know anything until we know anything. It's best to keep maintaining what we do know, which is the main three -- staying masked up, vaccines, social distance -- until we find out more information about it," Cain said. 

Hoffman says that doctors should know more about this variant in 2 weeks, when they have more data. 

She also says that people should refrain from traveling during the holidays if they have not been vaccinated yet. 

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