With omicron and delta, doctor says COVID vaccines, boosters key to holidays

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- With the holiday season in fast approaching, it seems the only thing that's moving faster is the positivity rate for COVID cases -- and that will mean some decision making, particularly as we wait to see what sort of impact the new omicron variant will bring.

And even as omicron garners the headlines, the delta variant still comprises 98% of all infections.

"Let's do the easy and concrete things rather than panic about things that we really can't do anything about," said Dr. Bruce Farber, Chief of Public Health and Epidemiology at Northwell.

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Derick Waller explains that officials are urging caution, not panic, after New York has been added to the growing list of states with confirmed cases of the omicron variant.


He says the number one item on pre-holiday to-do list is make sure you're fully vaccinated.

"Get a booster," he said. "You still have time for it to be effective. It takes about 10 or 12 days to get its full effect."

Experts hope that it provides some protection against the new variant, but the earliest data on omicron's virulence and effect on vaccines isn't expected for about two weeks.

The second part is testing, and if you're exposed to COVID, it's preferably a PCR test on day five. But any testing is good ahead of family gatherings.

"People can still do rapid antigens when they're getting together," Dr. Farber said. "A lot of people have done that prior to Thanksgiving. A lot of schools have done that."

He also recommends more masking indoors in public places and not inviting unvaccinated guests inside homes.

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Derick Waller reports that President Biden is rolling out a winter coronavirus strategy that includes making at-home rapid tests free.


The toughest choice, he says, may be whether to eat indoors at restaurants since the numbers have risen quite a bit. And he favors New York City over other areas due to their vaccine mandates.

"If there's a requirement to be vaccinated, I would absolutely choose New York City over Long Island, because they have that requirement and there is no requirement on Long Island," he said. "(But) will I eat in a restaurant? I do, but not as frequently as I used to, and I am cautious. I am paying very close attention to these rates."

Still, officials are urging caution and not panic as more cases of omicron are confirmed. Even before the variant, however, the same steps should still be taken considering the prevalence of the delta strain.

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