Natchez physician says omicron on its way; not too late to get vaccinated

Published 5:59 pm Monday, December 20, 2021

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NATCHEZ — Mississippi is seeing a jump in COVID cases, up 76 percent in the last 30 days, according to statistics from the Mississippi State Department of Health.

In Natchez, three COVID patients were hospitalized at Merit Health Natchez on Monday, and that number has been the average number of COVID inpatients during the month of December, said Kay Ketchings, Merit Health Natchez director of marketing.

Natchez physician Dr. Leslie England, an internal medicine specialist, said the omicron variant, which is considered highly contagious, is quickly making its way southward and urged those who are not vaccinated to get the vaccine soon.

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“It’s starting to spread real heavy in the Midwest and is spreading southward as the weather gets colder. It’s getting bad in Kentucky right now,” England said.

He said exactly how contagious the Omicron variant is has yet to be determined, “but we’re pretty sure it’s more contagious than the Delta variant.

“Last year, they said, every person with the virus gave it to two other people, but when the Delta variant came through, those with it gave it to seven other people. This one is said to be worse. It sounds like it’s going to take over from Delta, which was very vicious, but we will have to see about that one. Whatever it turns out to be, it will be a huge, huge problem,” England said.

While the omicron virus is thought to be less deadly than other variants, it can still take a serious toll on people and be fatal for those with poor health or the elderly.

Continuing to wear a mask when indoors around others will help.

“If you are in an enclosed area, you best do it,” he said.

The best protection for all is to get vaccinated.

“It’s not too late to get vaccinated. It is the only thing that is going to pull us out of this. If we don’t do that, and help vaccinate other people in the southern hemisphere, these variants are going to keep coming and not going to stop,” England said. “I think we are going to have to help vaccinate people and we are going to have to keep going until we get everybody vaccinated. No one is safe until we all are safe.”