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Connecticut doctors recommend masks, testing and vaccines to prepare for the Omicron variant

Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Over 350 Connecticut residents are hospitalized with COVID-19, according to state figures released Monday. But none of those cases are of the new strain of the virus, known as the Omicron variant. It’s being monitored across the U.S., which has yet to detect the variant as it spreads globally.

Connecticut’s cases are of the Delta variant, and mostly affect the elderly, immunocompromised and young, unvaccinated adults.

Dr. Ulysses Wu, chief epidemiologist at Hartford Healthcare, encouraged people to remain cautious by following state-mandated preventative health measures.

“The best way to fight this is exactly what we’re doing right now, which is vaccines and boosters,” Wu said. “Even if it’s not 100% effective against Omicron — it’s still going to be partially protective.”

The Omicron variant was first identified by researchers in South Africa, but it has since been detected around Europe, Canada, Australia and other parts of Asia. The U.S. banned travel to southern Africa on Monday.

Scientists are still researching the Omicron variant. Those infected have had mild symptoms compared to the Delta variant, and appear to impact people who are not fully vaccinated. However, there are more than 30 mutations of the variant.

While Connecticut is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, Dr. Ajay Kumar, chief clinical officer at Hartford Healthcare, said the hospitals are prepared for the new variant.

“We have learned quite a bit in the last two years right now since March of 2019 — what works, what doesn’t work. We have more tools in our toolbox to manage the patients. We are better prepared as a system — as a hospital. So we feel very comfortable and confident to manage where we are right now, whatever is to come,” said Kumar.

Researchers will continue monitoring new cases, and studying the Omicron variant to decide whether new medications or vaccines need to be developed to treat the virus.

Julio is a former intern with WSHU Public Radio.