Area infectious disease experts are warning residents that the pandemic is far from over — especially as a new, more infectious variant spreads across the U.S.
This threat comes as many American cities are lowering COVID-19 restrictions, including here in Omaha where there is no longer a mask mandate.
University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Dr. James Lawler said the number of cases will rise in Douglas County over the next few weeks, adding most of the new cases are in younger people who’ve yet to have the two doses needed for maximum protection.
His warning comes as the CDC reports the Delta variant is now the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S.
“To be honest, I don’t think people have any idea what’s coming over the next several weeks in the summer,” Dr. Lawler said. “It is going to get ugly and if you are 20, 30, 40, 50-years-old, the worst part of the pandemic is coming now.”
According to Lawler, the current vaccine does protect people from the Delta variant, but not at the same efficacy rate as the original strands of the virus.
Lawler said we will not see as many hospitalizations as we did last fall but warns those who get infected with the new variant will face a more severe disease.
“The issue is our hospitals are already full without COVID. We have had a record number of inpatients in our hospital over the last couple of months, so any additional burden we add to the health system is going to cause problems,” Dr. Lawler said.
Lawler said he does not think the City of Omaha should have done away with its face mask ordinance, especially for indoor spaces with large crowds.
He said he is communicating with anyone willing to listen on the Omaha City Council or in a leadership role about possible mitigation efforts to prevent another spike here in Omaha.