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South Bay Health Officials Tout Importance of COVID Booster, Tests and Caution

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County, as well as the detection of the county's first Omicron case, has health experts doubling down on health protocols, especially as the holidays approach.

"Vaccinate and boost, mask, test, ventilate and distance," said Santa Clara County public health officer Dr. Sara Cody during a news conference Friday.

In exactly two weeks, millions will gather with their family and friends for Christmas Eve. Health experts are urging people not to let their guard down when it comes to the pandemic.

"We have to be careful, while not panicking, we shouldn't downplay the potential of this new wave, the Omicron wave," said Stanford University Hospital epidemiologist Dr. Jorge Salinas. "There are signs that tell us that the number of cases will go up and they could go up very rapidly."

He said other countries that detected the Omicron variant before the U.S. have seen a significant uptick in cases and that America could follow the same pattern.

Positive COVID cases have already been increasing in the Bay Area, possibly the result of Thanksgiving gatherings.

University of San Francisco prof. of medicine Dr. Peter Chin-Hong advised that holiday plans could continue for those who are vaccinated but with caution.

"If you're unvaccinated, you really have to navigate the world very carefully, because we have a much more transmissible variant than a year ago," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "We should always navigate this work of COVID safely and carefully and that's what we'll continue to do. But, personally speaking, I'm vaccinated and boosted. I feel very confident moving around. If it's really crowded I wear a mask."

Both doctors said the rollercoaster of COVID-19 could be our new normal, at least for a while. Particularly, there will be a dip after a surge, they said.

Dr. Salinas said that people should be careful when gathering for the holidays as it appears the Omicron variant is more transmissible than the Delta variant despite immunity, both naturally and through the vaccine.

The doctor said if there is a massive number of positive cases, the economic impact on the workforce could be significant if people are quarantining and those who were potentially exposed are isolating as well.

Ruth Hurtado, who was forced to quarantine last year after she was exposed to someone with COVID, will be with family this Christmas. She said they're all vaccinated and she plans to get tested before they gather.

"They're excited. It's been a rough year for us so we're excited to spend the holidays together," said Hurtado. "I haven't seen them in a long time so I'm excited to get together with my mom, dad, brother, sister."

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