AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo Public Health Department Director Casie Stoughton said on Wednesday that no cases of the omicron variant have yet been confirmed through surveillance testing.
“But with an increase in cases like we’ve had, there’s no reason to think that omicron isn’t here,” said Stoughton “Iit’s super important. Masking is important. Vaccination is important, staying home, if you’re sick, or if you’re exposed, all of those things are very important. Prevention is going to be key in this current with this current variant circulating.”
Those safety reminders to the public came as APH reported 617 new COVID-19 cases, 194 new recoveries, and eight deaths in Potter and Randall Counties on Wednesday. Both counties totaled nearly 4,000 active cases.
“People are, you know, complaining of runny nose, sore throat, feeling like it’s a bad cold. We hear that a lot, ‘I thought it was a bad cold.’ So if you have those symptoms, testing is really important,” she continued.
Stoughton said APH has enough PCR and rapid antigen testing, for the time being, saying, “You know, as testing increases, we’re certainly watching that. But supplies are plentiful right now.”
She encourages people who take at-home COVID tests to report their results to the health department since there is no reporting mechanism by the manufacturer. She said it is important to report for multiple reasons.
“Number one, it’s helpful to have an accurate count, and number two, folks sometimes will need a work note so that they can stay home especially if they’re feeling really bad,” said Stoughton. “It’s important for us to make sure that people are able to isolate at home or family members quarantine so that we’re not spreading COVID among coworkers, and then also if they are at high risk and need the monoclonal antibody therapy.”
Stoughton said that monoclonal antibody therapy, Sotromivab, is working well. However, the infusion clinic is now only allowed to give it to people who are COVID-positive because of supply issues. She said they are only receiving about 200 a week.
“We’re no longer able to see patients who were exposed in that, what we call post-exposure medication,” she said. “The very best thing though, that we can do is the vaccine. The vaccine can prevent illness as opposed to treating it once someone is positive. So an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure here.”
According to Stoughton, APH’s vaccine clinic is staying busy.
“We’re really busy on Friday afternoons. So, if you’re wanting to be vaccinated, the best time to come is earlier in the day or earlier in the week. The waits are a little less but we’ve really had a great turnout recently.”
Stoughton said APH is planning more mobile vaccine clinics in the near future to get more people vaccinated and boosted.