As the new Omicron variant spreads worldwide, the Louisiana Department of Health continues to monitor the situation in our state and strongly recommends that people in Louisiana prepare and take action to protect themselves and their families. People who are vaccinated and eligible for a booster need to use this time to get their boosters. Those who are not vaccinated should get vaccinated. All international travelers, regardless of vaccination status or recent history of COVID-19 infection, should be tested 3-5 days after arrival.
On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new variant, B.1.1.529, as a Variant of Concern and has named it Omicron. This new variant was first reported to the WHO by government officials in South Africa, and the number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing throughout the Republic of South Africa. To date, no cases of Omicron have been identified in Louisiana or the United States. However, cases have been identified in at least 17 countries as of 1:30 p.m. on November 28, 2021.
New information is still emerging, but Omicron includes multiple mutations across the SARS-CoV-2 genome, some of which may have concerning public health implications. There is concern this new variant may be more transmissible than previous strains and that Omicron may carry an increased risk of reinfection compared to other variants of concern. We expect to learn more about Omicron in the coming days.
LDH has established a network of laboratories to conduct genomic sequencing on positive SARS-CoV-2 specimens in order to track circulating SARS-CoV-2 lineages, including newly emerging variants such as Omicron. Epidemiologists, laboratorians, and researchers will continue to closely monitor these data in order to identify Omicron cases in Louisiana.
“The time to prepare is now,” said State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter. “The best way to prepare and prevent a future COVID surge is for everyone 5 years of age and older to get vaccinated and for everyone 18 years of age and older to get a booster. If you are eligible and have not yet joined the more than 2.5 million Louisianans who have done so already, go get the COVID vaccine today.”
“Now that we are entering the winter holiday season, it’s also more important than ever to use those public health tools we know work – mask according to applicable guidelines, practice good hand hygiene, and get tested and stay home if you feel sick,” said Dr. Kanter.
Everyone aged 5 and older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Louisiana. The vaccines are widely available at more than 1,000 locations in all of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, including at pharmacies, hospitals, healthcare clinics, and doctor’s offices.
- For a list of locations, visit vaccines.gov, which is maintained by the federal government.
- To get a list of vaccine locations near you text your ZIP code to GETVAX (438829) in English, or VACUNA (822862) in Spanish.
- If you have questions, would like to speak with a medical professional, or need help scheduling an appointment, call 211 or Louisiana’s vaccine hotline at 1-855-453-0774.