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Omicron shatters records, stresses healthcare system

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Associated Press

The pandemic kept CES attendance down last week and forced the annual Las Vegas trade show to end early.

Nevada faces the highest volume of community spread of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with more than 30,000 cases reported in the last week.

The omicron variant has pushed the case count up to nearly double what it was during the delta variant peak of a year ago. Hospitals and emergency rooms are filling up, adding stress to an already stressed healthcare system.

“This snuck up on us kind of so quickly that it takes a little bit of time to ramp up and expand our testing, which we've done,” said Kimberly Franich, communicable disease manager for the Southern Nevada Health District.

This week the district added to its drive-through testing options by opening a location at Sam Boyd Stadium and plans to open additional drive-through locations in North Las Vegas and Henderson.

Franich said to check the list of testing centers and appointment availabilities, but she added that some locations allow walk-in testing if there are openings.

UNLV epidemiologist Biran Labus, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health, said that in just a few weeks, the omicron variant has “basically taken over, and now it's the only thing that we're seeing.”

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While initial reports say the variant produces less-severe symptoms, Labus told State of Nevada, “You still don’t want to get it.”

He recommended vaccinations and boosters, even if omicron has shown the ability to sometimes evade their defenses.

“It's kind of like saying not everybody who wears a seatbelt and gets in a car accident survives,” Labus said. “It's just the unfortunate reality of the biology of this organism, but the vaccine does protect people. It protects them from the worst effects of this.”

In school classrooms, concerns over health are compounded by questions over the best way forward amid high teacher and student absenteeism and the healthy being asked to carry an extra burden.

“It’s causing a strain on those who are in the buildings because they're having to try to cover those classrooms that do not have a substitute,” said Marie Neisess, president of the Clark County Education Association.

She said parents can help by monitoring their children for signs of possible COVID symptoms and be ready to have them tested.

“It's important to get students tested to make sure before you send them to class because it's so easily spread,” she said.

The health district reports its latest pandemic numbers here.

Guests

Brian Labus, epidemiologist, UNLV; Kimberly Franich, communicable disease manager, Southern Nevada Health District; Marie Neisess, president, Clark County Education Association

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