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The South African Medical Research Council said the COVID-19 variant omicron may cause a milder infection, though available data is too early to indicate death risks in a report released on Saturday.

There is a rise in hospitalizations of younger populations infected with the omicron variant over the last two weeks at the Steve Biko/Tshwane District Hospital Complex in the Gauteng province, where the variant was first detected. According to the report, it could be due to too low vaccination rates among this age group. 

“What is clear though is that the age profile is different from previous waves. It may be that this is a vaccination effect as 57 % of people over the age of 50 have been vaccinated in the province compared to 34% in the 18-to-49-year group,” the report said.

Over the last two weeks, the main observation made in the report is that a majority of patients infected by Omicron had not been oxygen dependent. “Incidental COVID admissions” were found as patents having had other medical or surgical reasons for admission. However, “the age profile differed markedly from the previous 18 months.” 

Of the 166 patients who were hospitalized between Nov.14 and 29, the report noted “no fewer than 80% of admissions were below the age of 50 years. This is in keeping with the age profile of admissions in all public and private hospitals in Tshwane and throughout the Gauteng Province in the last two weeks … Nineteen (19) percent were children aged 0-9 years and the highest number of admissions was in the age group 30-39 years, making up 28 percent of the total,”.

No deaths were noted in the report among the 34 admissions to the pediatric COVID words over the past two weeks. The report acknowledged it represents the data collected in the Tshwane district over the last two weeks. 

“The clinical profile of admitted patients could change significantly over the next two weeks, by which time we can draw conclusions about the severity of disease with greater precision,” the report noted. 

U.S health officials suggests the preliminary data may suggests less peril than the delta variant. 

“Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,”President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to delta.”

As of Sunday, the omicron variant has been detected in the Northeast, the South, the Great Plains, and the West coast. San Diego county has yet to report any omicron cases. 

A report released by the county reflects a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases as 1,153 are compared to reports in the 600’s in the days prior. Health officials in San Diego county believe it is due to recent festivities during Thanksgiving and not the omicron variant. 

Federal, state and local health officials urge people to get vaccinated, receive booster shots and follow precautionary measures that can help protect against other variants. 

The California Department of Public Heath recommends four specific actions that can be taken by all Californians to help slow the spread of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant. 

  • Get Vaccinated: All COVID-19 vaccinations are currently available in California for individuals ages 5 and older. Those over the age of 18 who are at least six months since last does of Pfizer or Moderna, or at least two months since J&J, are eligible for a booster. To get vaccinated or get a booster call (833) 422-4255 or visit the My Turn website
  • Wear Masks: Masks are recommended by the CDPH in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status. Masks are required at indoor public spaces for those who are unvaccinated. It is mandatory to wear masks on public transit, in public health care settings, K-12 schools, childcare settings, correctional facilities, cooling centers and shelters. 
  • Get Tested: Individuals should immediately get tested if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms regardless of vaccination status. Testing is free for anyone who needs it. Find a testing site online or call (833) 422-4255 or 211.
  • Stay home if you are feeling sick.  

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