ST. LOUIS — Farrin Manian, the chair of Mercy Hospital's Department of Medicine, said COVID cases are on the rise, and they're learning more about how the omicron variant differs from the delta variant.
"It seems to have a lot more mutations than the previous so it makes it a little more problematic in that it also appears to be more transmissible than even the delta virus, which was also highly transmissible," Manian said.
He said the symptoms for unvaccinated people are the same.
Data shows vaccinated people experience milder symptoms and are less likely to end up in the hospital.
"This is still a respiratory virus, so you know, runny nose, sore throat, fever, cough. Those are still going to be common," Manian said.
The World Health Organization said the omicron variant is spreading fast, doubling every one-and-a-half to three days.
"The hospitalization rate has gone up. The number of cases being diagnosed has gone up," Manian said.
Manian said they have about half the number of COVID patients this year than they did at this time last year.
The current upward trend in cases could lead to a maximum strain on the health care system again.
"I think if we get close to that, I personally think we're going to have to have a lot more restrictions again to get through this current surge," Manian said.
He urged everyone to avoid large gatherings, mask indoors, get vaccinated and get your booster shots to avoid a surge in cases after the holidays.
"I think everyone is concerned about the kind of all of the elements of a perfect storm being recreated, essentially," Manian said.
President Joe Biden is expected to give a speech about the omicron variant on Tuesday. He could also talk about how this variant may impact existing COVID vaccines.