Wisconsin doctors warn against large New Year's Eve parties amid Omicron variant spread
MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Local doctors are warning against large New Year's Eve parties this weekend as the highly contagious Omicron variant spreads through our community.
Health officials say if someone at a New Year's party has the Omicron variant, the chances the other attendees will catch the virus are high. They estimate it's three to five times more transmissible than the Delta variant was.
Doctors are asking people to think about who will be at their gatherings.
"Large gatherings where you're not certain of the vaccination status of people should be avoided," said Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control at UW Health.
Safdar also recommends that anyone going to a holiday gathering wear a well-fitted, multi-layered mask.
Wisconsin is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant. The cases are expected to rise through January.
"Make no mistake: Omicron is the most contagious variant of this pandemic," said Dr. Joyce Sanchez, an infectious disease specialist at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin.
So how contagious is it? Safdar encourages people to think about it in terms of how many people will get infected from one positive case at a party.
"The numbers seem to suggest that one to two people might get infected if someone has (the original strain of) COVID in a gathering. Then with Delta, that number became more like three to four, and with Omicron, it's more like six to seven (people) or higher," she explained.
Doctors said people who are vaccinated and boosted are much less likely to land in the hospital with COVID-19 and further strain the health care system.
"Our hospitals are very much overstretched. Many of our staff have not been able to come into work," Sanchez said.
Health officials also recommend getting tested before a gathering and a few days after a gathering to make sure they weren't exposed.
Doctors recognize the mental health impacts of not spending the holidays with friends and family. However, they say if people can celebrate New Year's safely if they follow mitigation steps such as being vaccinated and boosted, getting tested and masking up.