Omicron Variant: Still Unanswered Questions, San Diego County Preparing

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher's office said the county has dealt with variants before, and can change course if necessary. Right now, it is waiting for more information about the new variant.

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As of Monday afternoon, San Diego County had not identified any cases of Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant.

The number of COVID cases in the county, however, is up after, likely due in part to the Thanksgiving holiday, and it is the time of year where there could be a spike in cases.

“The interplay the new variant could have with another spike leaves room for concern," said Doctor Omid Bakhtar from Sharp Health Care, adding, the Delta variant is what needs our attention. “We’re still very much in the midst of Delta. And this spike, if it is going to happen, depending how intense the spike is, is largely going to be Delta related.”

Bakhtar is a pathologist at Sharp Health Care, the medical director of the Outreach lab, the director of the lab that does COVID testing for the hospital, and a tri-chair for the county's testing for COVID.

There is preliminary data that seems to show Omicron has the potential to transmit more easily, and to possibly evade the immune system; but perhaps it is less severe. 

Bakhtar says there are a lot of unanswered questions, and many variables about how the virus will react, and that depends upon local and geographic factors, like vaccination and infection rates.

“Those will be important for us to get a grasp of what this virus is going to do, we have to see what would happen locally," said Bakhtar.

Right now, he says “It’s important to remember the devil we know. We know Delta can be problematic and we know Delta is on the rise, and we know the things we can do to prevent Delta from propagating, largely vaccinations and the masking. The numbers are so low for Omicron, and so many questions unanswered, we really shouldn’t lose sight of the forest here.” 

He said Delta continues to be a huge public health problem.

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