Vigilance urged as COVID variant spreads

The new omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading, adding emphasis to recommendations from health authorities and others for the public to be vaccinated and wear face masks in public.

According to news reports, researchers at the University of Washington reported in mid-December that they were seeing a rapid rise in coronavirus cases with a mutation that is characteristic of the omicron variant, and that the variant could be highly transmissible.

Officials at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, among other public-health agencies, said people can help stop the spread of the virus by getting COVID vaccinations (appointments for first or second doses, as well as booster shots for people already vaccinated) can be made online at Information is also available at 253-649-1412.

Masks are also an important prortection against infection. Anyone 5 years old or older is required, under a statewide mandate, to wear a face covering indoors in public spaces and outdoors in crowds of 500 or more people. The indoor requirement is regardless of vaccination status.

Masks, vaccinations, and other measures such as keeping six feet away from other people at large gatherings can help reduce the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 and slow the increase in cases and hospitalizations of people with the illness.