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Will omicron variant of COVID-19 reach Northeast Ohio?

A local infectious diseases expert weighs on whether the newest COVID variant could come our way. Will current vaccines and boosters protect us?

OHIO, USA — The new COVID-19 pmicron variant is inspiring local caution. 3News spoke to an infectious disease specialist who says we should be concerned here in Northeast Ohio, but not overly.

"I don’t think it’s a matter of if it comes, I really think it’s probably a matter of when it comes, but right now, I would say not to panic," says Dr. Claudia Hoyen, Infectious Disease Specialist with University Hospitals.

Omicron has already appeared in two COVID-19 cases in Ontario,Canada, but what are the odds the newest COVID-19 variant will reach us here in Northeast Ohio?

"It may actually already be here and just not be detected. We're screening for omicron, but, so far, we've found no detectable cases," says Hoyen.

Existing vaccines will provide some protection against omicron, but getting booster shots will give you an added layer. According to Monday’s numbers from Ohio’s Department of Health, about 63% of people in Cuyahoga County, 61% in Medina County, and nearly 62% in Summit County have had at least one vaccine shot.

"Hopefully omicron will be like delta where that was something we were very worried about, but, in the end, the vaccine still worked really well. We’re still fighting that fight with delta, and we're not out of the woods yet," says Hoyen.

Dr. Hoyen says while we shouldn't panic about omicron, the delta variant is still making people very ill - especially on the pediatric side. The first real surge in pediatric delta patients was in late September. Hoyen says hospitals are about back to those levels again.

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