New details emerge about omicron variant

Published: Dec. 23, 2021 at 9:56 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) confirmed 776 new cases of COVID-19 in the county Thursday, up from 421 cases the day before.

Thursday afternoon, long lines formed at the testing center at Poplar Healthcare on Hacks Cross.

“The omicron variant is here in Shelby County,” said SCHD Dr. Michelle Taylor. “We don’t know if it’s the dominant variant in Shelby County, but what we do know is our cases are rising rapidly.”

Taylor said they expect omicron cases to double every two days now.

If you test positive, she said, isolate for at least 10 days in a room by yourself and use a separate restroom from housemates if possible.

“Make sure that if you are going to be around other family members, do it for less than 15 minutes and make sure everyone is masked, even in your home, so that you don’t spread the virus to other people in your household,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), symptoms of the omicron variant include:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Body aches
  • Fever or chills
  • Lower back pain

The CDC also released new guidelines Thursday for healthcare workers who get COVID-19. If asymptomatic, return to work after seven days with a negative test or sooner if there are staffing shortages.

Healthcare workers who received full vaccine doses, plus a booster, do not need to quarantine after exposure.

“I’m encouraged to know that folks in Shelby County know what they need to do if they’re ill, or if they want to take some precautionary measures to make sure they’re not spreading the virus in the community,” said Taylor. “So, this increase in testing shows us that’s exactly what folks are doing.”

With at-home COVID-19 tests in short supply, click here for locations where you can get tested.

The real test in this pandemic is how severe omicron cases get. Other countries, including South Africa and the U.K., report milder symptoms than in the delta wave.

SCHD released hospitalization data Thursday that showed 164 COVID-19 positive patients are in Memphis metro hospitals right now and 121 are being treated in acute care. Forty-three are in ICU. These numbers include hospital data from Shelby, Tipton, Lauderdale, Crittenden, and DeSoto counties.

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