By Caroline Vandergriff

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The COVID-19 omicron variant has officially hit American soil, but it’s too soon to tell exactly how it will impact the spread of the virus in North Texas.

“I think it’s inevitable that we’ll see this virus spread throughout the U.S.” said Dr. David Winter with Baylor Scott & White Health. “We’re not sure if it’s going to be really bad or mild, whether it’s going to go away or not. We don’t know yet if omicron is going to be more contagious than delta.”

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The first case of the omicron COVID-19 variant in the U.S. was confirmed in California. The person was a traveler returning from South Africa.

As scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new virus strain, North Texas hospitals are in “wait and see” mode.

Most have plans on standby to ramp up capacity if they need to, watching for trends with COVID-19 variants and flu cases too.

“Take a surge of influenza and a surge of COVID, we’ve got a real problem with capacity around the country,” Dr. Winter said.

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Hospitals in the area are already fairly full, with an increase in elective surgeries this time of year and nearly 800 COVID-19 patients, according to the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.

“Which is the highest we’ve been in a month, so we’re seeing a little spike,” said Stephen Love, the President and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. “…No need to panic, but you do need to do the things we know work. Please wear those masks. Please get vaccinated.”

Unless it’s proven otherwise, Dr. Winter said we should assume the COVID-19 vaccine will be effective against omicron.

“Get a booster if you haven’t had one yet,” he said. “If you’re not vaccinated, reconsider that right now. Because if this is a bad virus, you want all the protection that you can get.”

He said it’s especially during the holidays, with an increase in parties, family gatherings, and travel.

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“Let’s all do our part to keep as many people out of the hospital as possible,” said Love.

Caroline Vandergriff