HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Over the course of two weeks, Harris County went from announcing the first known case of the omicron variant in our area to announcing the first known death.
"As we've been expecting, the omicron variant of COVID-19 has arrived in full force," said Judge Lina Hidalgo. "Early data suggests it's doubling in two to three days according to the CDC. Just to give a point of comparison, the delta variant doubles in every 11 days."
On Monday, Hidalgo announced the county's first omicron-related death, a man in his 50s who was not vaccinated. In addition, the man had an underlying health condition, according to Hidalgo.
Even with a more contagious virus, Dr. Linda Yancey with Memorial Hermann said early data suggests this variant may be less severe.
"We have initial reports on omicron that demonstrate it is not more deadly than delta," said Yancey.
The infectious disease specialist reminds us we are also in a better place today than we were last Christmas.
"This time a year ago, a handful of people in the Houston area had been vaccinated, (now) it is two-thirds of the people," she said.
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While she says they do anticipate breakthrough cases among the vaccinated, data suggests this variant will inflict milder symptoms on those who are fully vaccinated and boosted, which she hopes will dampen the expected surge.
"Even though we are going to see a surge, we are going to see an increase in cases, our hope is that it's not going to be anything like what we saw in December and January last year," said Dr. Yancey.
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She says the best gift you can share this holiday season, is the gift of health.
"I'm encouraging everybody, get up Christmas morning before you get down those stockings take a rapid COVID test. A negative test on Christmas morning is going to give you amazing peace of mind that you're not going to be transmitting this disease to older and more vulnerable family members."
So far, there have been 2,797 COVID-related deaths in Harris County, according to the county's COVID dashboard.
For more information on Harris County's COVID threat level and where to get a vaccine, visit ReadyHarris.org.