Orofino,Idaho-Window on the Clearwater
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Let's take a look at winter safety and Omicron

by Dr. Charity Robinson, Clearwater Valley Health

If anyone has looked out the window this week, you can see that winter is already here, ready or not, a full two weeks early.

We have already had our first big snow storm in November, and the forecast is predicting a wet future. With winter comes added risks to our health and safety. I want to take a few minutes to remind everyone how to keep extra safe in the winter.

First, we want everyone to avoid broken bones this winter. It is important to wear proper shoes when walking in the snow and ice to avoid slips and falls. Good traction such as snow boots are a great start. Even if you need to wear different shoes while working inside, be sure to wear safe shoes getting in and out of the building. Make sure your hands are free and by your side while walking, so you can keep your balance and catch yourself if you do slip and fall. Use de-icer for your porches and sidewalks near your home to reduce slick spots, and if you spend a lot of time outside walking a pet or enjoying daily walks, be sure to add additional traction on your shoes with spike crampons which can be easily placed on your shoes when you need them.

Second, we want people to stay safe on the roads, especially in inclement weather. Be sure to slow way down in order to avoid having to make sudden stops, avoid driving if you do not need to when the roads are snowy or icy, and consider snow tires if you live up any of our winding hills. Our clinic can help you keep your appointments safely from home, if appropriate, in times of bad weather by converting your appointment to a telehealth appointment. This can be done on a cell phone, computer, or any electronic device that connects to internet or cell service.

Winter is also a time of indoor activities and gatherings, as well as increased travel for family get-togethers over the holidays. Please remember that along with many of the common colds circulating, we do still have COVID-19 spreading through our community. As much as we want this pandemic to be over, it is not yet, and it is still very active in our town. We had many new hospitalizations over the past weekend with COVID illness. Most people with milder forms of the illness do not get tested, are not being quarantined, and so it continues to spread. People can catch and spread COVID-19 even with prior infection or vaccination. We currently still have the Delta variant circulating in our community, but a new variant was discovered on Nov. 24, and WHO designated the new variant with the name Omicron. This Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes.

Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available. It is still too early to know how this variant will behave, and more time and cases will give us more knowledge and understanding. It does appear to be easily transmissible, but it is not yet clear whether Omicron is more easily spread from person to person compared to other variants, including Delta. It is also not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta. There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.

One thing we do know is that all variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people and unvaccinated, and thus prevention is always key. Vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, whether from Delta or any other variants of COVID-19. Current vaccines remain effective and are the best way to be protected from Omicron.

For now, the best way to have a safe and healthy holiday season, is to continue measures to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 by wearing a mask if you are closer than three feet from other individuals, use good hand hygiene, cover coughs and sneezes by wearing a mask, avoid crowds, and everyone five years and older can protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated. CDC recommends that everyone ages 18 years and older should get a booster shot at least two months after their initial J&J/Janssen vaccine or six months after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

Photo: Dr. Charity Robinson, Clearwater Valley Health

Window on the Clearwater
P.O. Box 2444
Orofino, ID 83544
Phone: (208) 476-0733
Fax: (208) 476-4140