SLO County warns of Omicron variant as winter arrives

By KAREN VELIE

As the COVID-19 Omicron variant has now been identified in California, local health officials encourage San Luis Obispo County residents to strengthen their protection against the virus, which remains at a moderate level, to avert a potential winter surge.

With any strain of the coronavirus, winter brings the potential for a surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths as colder weather drives more activities indoors, holidays inspire more gatherings, and other viruses like flu put pressure on the healthcare system. Vaccines, masking and staying home when sick offer some protection.

“It’s a matter of time before Omicron reaches our community and while this is not cause for panic, it is cause for action,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, SLO County’s health officer. “While breakthrough cases are possible, it’s very likely that vaccines will provide protection against this variant. Now is the time to get fully vaccinated so you will be protected in the months ahead.”

During the past three days, 181 SLO County residents tested positive for the coronavirus. San Luis Obispo leads with 42 new cases, followed by Arroyo Grande with 37, Nipomo with 26, Atascadero with 19 and Paso Robles with 16.

In SLO County, 30,640 people have tested positive for the virus and 365 have died.

There have been 4,978,179 positive cases, and 75,013 deaths in California.

More than 49,878,049 U.S. residents have tested positive for the virus, and 808,116 have died.

In addition, the number of people infected with the virus worldwide continues to increase: 265,235,504 cases with 5,259,255 dead.