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SAN ANTONIO – In early December, a newly discovered variant of COVID-19 surfaced in Bexar County, Texas. It was said to be more contagious but symptomatically less severe.

The strain was discovered by The California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health on Nov. 26, 2021 when it reached the United States. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identified it as Omicron.

On Nov. 27 and Dec. 7, 2021, the University of Texas Health at San Antonio (UTHSA) diagnosed the first two cases of Omicron in Bexar County.

The CDC confirms the new variant spreads more easily among individuals whether or not one is vaccinated. Although Omicron shows similar symptoms to previous variants, the symptoms are less severe and can easily be mistaken for sinuses or a minor cold. 

As of Jan. 24, there have been 4,297 cases of Omicron, totaling 473,625 cases of COVID-19 in the city as a whole, and seven deaths related to the new variant, counting 5,047 deaths in the city. According to San Antonio Metropolitan Health District officials, due to the number of positive cases and the number of hospitalizations caused by the virus, the risk level has been heightened.

To take precautions, multiple schools around the city including Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) extended their winter break by going virtual the first few weeks of the 2022 Spring semester.

In hopes of decreasing Omicron cases, the CDC recommends people receive both doses of the vaccination and an approved vaccine booster shot. This is the most effective way to treat the illness according to the CDC. In addition, wearing a mask whenever one cannot practice social distancing and administering COVID-19 self-test when feeling ill are other ways to stay safe from the virus.

COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters are offered in various locations around San Antonio. These  locations include Walgreens Pharmacy on Commerce Street, H-E-B Pharmacy on Culebra Road, or at Walmart Pharmacy on Bandera Road. Appointments may be needed depending on location.

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