TOPEKA, (KSNT)— The Kansas Department of Health & Environment Plans to release new safety guidance for the upcoming holidays, as the state prepares for the presence of the Omicron variant.
Matthew Lara, a spokesperson for the state’s health department, told Kansas Capitol Bureau in an email that the new holiday guidance is expected to be released soon.
Lara said the new recommendations are expected to go out “Monday of next week.”
This comes as the state prepares for the arrival of the variant in Kansas. While Lara noted that there have been no confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the state over the weekend, Governor Laura Kelly said that the state is planning to take steps to prevent the variant from spreading.
“We’ve been working with our hospitals, with our pharmacies, with our local public health departments for the entirety of this pandemic,” Gov. Kelly said. “We’re just continuing to do that, recognizing that we may have a new variant that comes in.”
The Governor said the state will continue to push “public health safety protocols” and encouraged people to get vaccinated to protect themselves against the virus.
“It’s the only way that we’ll be able to deal with this virus. Whatever the variant might be,” Kelly said.
The Omicron variant has been recently detected in the U.S. and in neighboring states, like Missouri. However, it is still an “uncertain threat” according to some public health officials, with the highly-contagious Delta variant remaining a primary concern.
State health guidance released in November, prior to the arrival of the new variant in the U.S., “encouraged” gatherings with family and friends.
Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Kansas Health System, said for people who may still feel uncomfortable, they can still follow safety measures like wearing a mask or social distancing. He also warned it’s important to get vaccinated to stay safe.
“That safety comes in the form of reduced risk of getting the infection, depending on how far out from vaccination you are,” Dr. Hawkinson said. “But especially against the more severe forms of illness.”
Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino, Senior Fellow at the Kansas Health Institute, also pointed to the vaccine as the best way to stay safe during the holiday season, especially when gathering indoors where air circulation is limited. Pezzino said it’s important to stay alert and weigh your own risk.
“Now’s not the time to be reckless,” he said. “But knowing what we are getting into in terms of situation, or the social environment around us, and then deciding if it’s a calculated risk we want to take or not.”
For CDC recommendations on how to celebrate the holidays in a safer way, click here.