The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is rising in the New River Health District, and that’s likely to continue through the rest of December, topping off the holiday season and new year.

Though omicron, the newest coronavirus variant, hasn’t yet made its way to the region, Noelle Bissell, the district’s health director, expects that it soon will come. That, plus the large number of people who will travel and gather for the holidays, likely will push case counts higher.

Currently, the district is reporting up to 350 COVID-19 positive cases a week, she said on Dec. 20 during a meeting with news media.

Still, though omicron is more contagious, it appears to be less serious than other variants, based on reports of the disease in other countries.

The COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing hospitalization, serious illness, and death from these variants, Bissell said. But there is an increased chance that people will contract the coronavirus, even those who are fully vaccinated.

“As omicron is so much more contagious, more people are going to get infected,” Bissell said.

Follow these tips from Bissell and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for safe holiday celebrations:

  • Get vaccinated. Even if you’re not fully vaccinated in time for a holiday gathering, a first dose of the vaccine does provide some immunity.
  • If you have been vaccinated, get your booster. All individuals aged 18 and older are eligible to receive a COVID booster. If you are at least six months past your first vaccination date for Moderna or Pfizer, or two months past your vaccination date for Johnson & Johnson, get a booster as soon as possible.
  • Wear a mask in public indoor settings if you’re not fully vaccinated, have a weakened immune system, or are in a high transmission area.
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces, such as basements. Open windows to increase air circulation.
  • Take celebrations outdoors.
  • If you are sick or have symptoms, do not host or attend holiday gatherings.
  • Practice good hygiene by washing hands frequently.
  • Be cautious about COVID-19 exposures before attending a gathering. Avoid crowded indoor spaces and other high risk activities.
  • Consider taking a self COVID-19 test before spending time with family and friends.
  • Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is required to wear a mask on public transportation and to follow international travel recommendations. 

What to do if you become infected with COVID-19:

  • Isolate in your home, away from family members if possible. Do not leave your home except to receive medical care.
  • Take over-the-counter medications if needed, such as pain relievers, antihistamines, and cold medicine.
  • Get rest and stay hydrated.
  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth if you must be around people or animals.
  • Talk with a physician if you are older or have other high risk factors.
To get the vaccine or booster, go to one of the Health Department sites listed, visit a local pharmacy, or find a vaccine through
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