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Omicron surge may be underway in North Dakota

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For now, officials are comfortable with testing capacity.

After a sharp increase in positive COVID-19 cases following the holidays, state health officials say North Dakota’s Omicron surge may be taking off.

The state health department today confirmed 1,234 new cases and three additional deaths.

Disease control section chief Kirby Kruger says demand for testing did drop off over the holidays, but as the Omicron variant takes hold in the state we can expect to see more and more positive cases. He says for now, supply chain issues are not impacting the state’s testing capacity. And while much of what scientists are learning about Omicron points to it being less severe, it is much more contagious. Kruger says that simply means more people may need hospitalization.

"The rate of hospitalization with Omicron is down - it doesn't seem to be as serious, and not as many people are being hospitalization. But if you cut your hospitalization rate in half, but your overall cases triple - that still adds more pressure to our health care system."

Kruger says vaccinated and boosted individuals are more protected from severe illness, so that will remain an important part of alleviating stress on hospitals during the surge. He also says the layered protections of vaccines, staying home when ill, masking, distancing and isolating if you’ve been exposed can help slow the spread of the virus.

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