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New Mexico hospital officials urge calm on omicron


The omicron variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed in 10 states as of Friday, Dec. 3, including our neighbors in Colorado and Utah. While the variant is causing concern, New Mexico hospital officials earlier this week urged the public to not panic, but remain vigilant.

The New York Times reports that omicron appears to be spreading in South Africa more than twice as fast as delta. Dr. Rohini McKee, chief quality and safety officer at University of New Mexico Hospital, said at a news conference Tuesday that we’ll know more about the variant in a few weeks.

“One of the most important things we’re waiting on is information on how effective existing vaccines will be against the omicron variant,” she said.

McKee said global concern is over mutations in three of the key areas that allow our antibodies to recognize and neutralize the virus. “And we’ve never seen this before,” she explained.

“We need to stay calm and understand that we have the tools that we need to deal with omicron or delta or any other variant,” she told New Mexicans awaiting more data. “They may not be glamorous, but they work.”

Those include social distancing, masking and getting vaccinated.

State health officials are urging booster shots six months after a first series of Moderna or Pfizer’s vaccine, and two months after an initial dose of Johnson & Johnson.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.