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COVID numbers going in the 'wrong direction' as Hamilton Co. officials address Omicron

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Hamilton County Commission (screenshot from Dec. 1, 2021 COVID-19 Briefing)

Hamilton County is dealing with more than 6,000 active cases of COVID-19 heading into the new month as concerns surrounding a new variant continue to grow.

During Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing, Commissioner Denise Driehaus says COVID numbers are going in the wrong direction.

"These are people," Driehaus said. "These are people in our community, our neighbors, our friends, our family that we are still losing to COVID-19."

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Hamilton County Commission (screenshot from Dec. 1, 2021 COVID-19 Briefing)

The county is averaging roughly 211 cases per day. Currently, 467 COVID-19 patients are in the region's hospitals, with 128 in the ICU and 89 on ventilators.

More than 1,500 people in Hamilton County have died from COVID-19 during the pandemic. More than 112,000 cases have been confirmed during that timeframe.

Concerns surrounding Omicron variant

On Sunday, the World Health Organization warned that the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus poses a "very high" global risk because it could spread more easily and might resist vaccines and immunity in people infected with previous strains.

Dr. Stephen Feagins with Mercy Health says the variant isn't currently impacting the community, but it should increase people's desire to get vaccinated. He notes that virus mutations are more likely as more cases occur, but vaccines lower the amount of viral load in a person, resulting in lower spread.

"We talk about herd immunity, that's how it occurs," Feagins said. "There's either natural and or vaccinated immunity in a certain percentage of the population for which the virus simply doesn't replicate as much."

The Omicron variant was first reported last week in South Africa. So far, there have been no reported deaths linked to the Omicron variant. More than 60% of Hamilton County has received at least one dose of a vaccine.

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Hamilton County Commission (screenshot from Dec. 1, 2021 COVID-19 Briefing)