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'Be flexible going into the holidays' | Doctors say more details about the omicron COVID-19 variant could emerge around Christmas

The World Health Organization describes omicron as a 'variant of concern,' as scientists work to learn more. It could take weeks for initial research to be done.

HOUSTON — Confirmation of omicron, the latest COVID-19 variant, is not what people want to hear as we head into the holidays.

Houston is coming off a record-setting week for holiday travel during the pandemic. Nearly two million people passed through Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby Airport in the 10 days around Thanksgiving.

Based on initial evidence and surveillance, the World Health Organization categorizes omicron as a variant of concern. While omicron was first detected in South Africa, doctors are now tracking global spread. Canada confirmed the first cases of omicron in North America.

RELATED: Canada reports 1st omicron variant COVID cases as world races to learn more

The United States is among several countries now restricting travel to South Africa and seven other African nations. Meanwhile, flights to and from Canada continue to land and take off from IAH.

“I think we just have to be flexible going into the holidays," advised Dr. Annamaria Macaluso Davidson, the Vice-President of Employee Health Medical Operations for the Memorial Hermann Health System.

Macaluso Davidson said there really are more questions than answers. When asked if the WHO knows if the omicron variant is as deadly or deadlier than other variants she said, “we don’t know yet.”

Doctors do know the omicron variant is highly transmissible, which is why several governments initiated a travel ban in the first days after omicron was first detected.

KHOU 11 News Reporter Melissa Correa asked Macaluso Davidson if we know how the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines hold up against the newest COVID-19 variant.

“Technically, no,” she said.

But Macaluso Davidson confirms several studies are happening right now, including one that tests current vaccines against the new variant. 

“There is some early data kind of suggesting that it’s possible that reinfection is easier,” Macaluso Davidson said of the possibility of omicron being capable of re-infecting people who have contracted and recovered from a previous case of COVID-19.

So, as of now, do we need to do anything beyond getting vaccinated, masking up and avoiding travel if we’re sick?

“I would say no. Do exactly as you’ve outlined. We keep doing exactly what we’ve been doing,” Macaluso Davidson said.

The world hopes to know a lot more about omicron in about four weeks when early research and lab results should be ready. Four weeks from now puts us right at the Christmas holiday, which is why doctors recommend you keep whatever holiday plans you make flexible.

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