As the Omicron variant surges through Coos County, case counts have already topped even the highest counts at any other time in the pandemic.

As of Thursday, the county reported 1,198 active cases, easily the highest at any point in the pandemic. The good news is the lighter symptoms seemed to be keeping people safe, with just 10 people in the hospital and one new death in the last week.

"As a community, we really need to focus on taking care of ourselves," said Dr. Eric Gleason, assistant director of Coos Health and Wellness. "If you are sick at this point, just assume it's probably COVID and reach out to those you've been around. We need to focus on the more at-risk population. Don't go to the hospital unless you absolutely need help. If you have a positive test, you don't need to go to the hospital."

Gleason said with the record number of cases, anyone who is sick, with any symptoms, should assume it's COVID unless a test proves differently. Gleason said Omicron is a game changer because of the milder symptoms and because it is presenting differently in different people. Reported symptoms cover everything normally seen in a cold or flu, so Gleason said even the mildest symptom could be a sign of COVID.

"Omicron has become a game-changer," he said. "If you go outside, you're probably going to end up with COVID. At this point, these preventative measures are keeping you from being hospitalized and possibly death. By doing these basic things we learned in kindergarten, we can get through this.

"I'm concerned with anybody who walks through the front door. This thing is so contagious. It hits hard and fast."

Omicron level of transmission has made even the fully vaccinated and those who use all precautions at risk for getting COVID, but Gleason said those who are following the preventative measures are still at far greater risk.

With the numbers soaring, Gleason said it may be hard to believe, but there will be an end to the COVID pandemic. The question is when and at what cost to society.

"I think there is an end game once this gets endemic. It's not there yet," he said. "Our job now is to manage it. It's about managing risk. The things that were put in place were about protecting those who couldn't help themselves. It will become sommthing we live with at some point. I hope Omicron is something that gets us there. But those vaccines, those boosters, those preventative measures are something that gets us through this. We still need to be mindful of others."

With the surging cases and a lack of tests, Gleason said many will get sick without confirmation. If you are sick, stay home for five days after the first symptom is noticed. If there are no symptoms on day six, you can return to normal life. If you continue to have symptoms, stay at home until you have been symptom free for 24 hours.

"COVID is going to present differently in every person," said Becky Fairhurst, RN and COVID lead at Coos Health and Wellness. "At this point, seek testing if you can. Stay home, just stay home. Assume you're positive an quarantine."


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