COVID-19 test

File / The Outlook

The omicron variant, a shorter incubation period and families gathering for the holidays have combined to create a perfect storm of new COVID-19 cases nationwide.

Ninety-eight Tallapoosa County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past seven days, a rate of about 12 new cases per day since omicron hit the state, according to Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) data. The seven-day caseload is nearly double the previous week's.

The new cases still pale in comparison to the county's delta-variant peak in September, when an average of 50 Tallapoosa County residents were testing positive each day, but cases are on the rise. On Tuesday, Tallapoosa County's COVID-19 test positivity rate jumped from 7.1 to 17.9 percent as ADPH updated its data.

Statewide, hospitalizations have also been on the rise since Thanksgiving, with 528 Alabamians in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Monday.

But while the omicron variant spreads faster, the illness ends sooner. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its recommended isolation time for those infected from 10 days to five, if asymptomatic, followed by five days of masking. According to the CDC, the change reflects the variant's shorter window of infectiousness, about one to two days prior to the onset of symptoms and two to three days thereafter.

The CDC also shortened its recommended quarantine for those exposed to the virus from 10 days to five, for those either unvaccinated, more than six months out from their second vaccine dose or two months out from their Johnson & Johnson shot. Boosted individuals are exempt.

According to the CDC's update Monday, "Data from South Africa and the United Kingdom demonstrate that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35 percent. A COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75 percent. COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death from COVID-19."

As of Monday, just under half — 47.5 percent — of Alabamians were fully vaccinated for COVID-19, while about one in four have received their booster dose.

"Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission and take a test before you gather," CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

The Tallapoosa County Health Department is currently running a walk-in COVID-19 vaccine and booster clinic for both Pfizer and Moderna. Nearly one in five county residents have contracted the coronavirus since March 2020.

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