COVID uptick in Omaha: 'We'd be in a much worse position if people had not been previously vaccinated'

BA.5 is dominant strain spreading in Douglas County
Posted at 7:16 PM, Jul 21, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Pedestrians in the Old Market on Thursday all shared similar thoughts about COVID-19.

"I'm fully vaccinated. We flew out here from San Diego. We wore a mask the entire time in the airport, the entire time on the plane," Deanna DeFrank said.

"We're still being cautious, but not so worried about it. We know we can still get it," Mary Keeley-Herring said.

"If you're gonna be afraid of it, you're gonna be afraid of it. If not, go out and live it," said John Santonastaso.

Folks are aware and accept that the virus is not going away, but they still make careful adjustments to keep safe.

"I go to the gym every day, but I don't go to classes that are full-full. I wait until there are less people there," Keeley-Herring said.

"We're actually here in town to do RAGBRAI next week, we'll be riding across Iowa with thousands of people, but again, we're gonna be eating outdoors," DeFrank said.

Staying vigilant is important considering the BA.5 subvariant of omicron is the dominant strain in Nebraska, showing up in about 60% of sequenced tests. In Douglas County, it's about 40% of cases.

We asked Nebraska Medical Center Professor and Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Mark Rupp, if outdoor events such as concerts pose a risk with BA.5. He says people who are at higher risk for severe disease should probably avoid higher-risk situations.

"All things being equal, having an activity outdoors is going to be better than what you are doing indoors," Rupp said.

Hospitalizations have been trending upwards for weeks. Douglas County Health reports 142 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday. Still, Rupp stresses that vaccinations are key, and being up-to-date on doses and boosters, if you're eligible.

"When we have an overwhelming number of people who are sick with COVID, it's fairly invariable that some of them are going to get ill and require hospitalization. We'd be in a much worse position if people had not been previously vaccinated," Rupp said.

Accepting that COVID-19 is a fact of life at this point while practicing caution is something with which Nebraskans are coming to terms.

"It's here and it's not going to go away, so we just have to learn to live with it. That's what we're doing — doing everything we can that's offered and just living our lives," Keeley-Herring said.

Rupp also says if you're in a high-risk situation and are in an indoor area, it's prudent to wear a mask. Practice that same advice if you are in a crowded setting outside and standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The incubation period for BA.5 is shorter than other subvariants: about two to three days.

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