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Mid-South leaders push for vaccinations with the Omicron variant on the horizon

Published: Nov. 28, 2021 at 9:25 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The latest COVID-19 variant, Omicron, continues its spread to other countries, most recently in Canada.

This comes at a time when Mid-Southerners just finished Thanksgiving travel and prepare for Christmas, now less than a month away.

With Sunday evening’s announcement that Canada diagnosed its first cases of the Omicron variant, top health officials in the U.S. speculate that the new variant is already in the states.

“Obviously, a new variant is a concern,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on CNN’s Face the Nation Sunday morning.

Hutchinson is encouraging vaccinations to prepare for Omicron now that the Delta variant appears to be making its way out.

“I think the message as a governor is ‘steady as you go,’” he said. “Let’s take this window to get better prepared by increasing our vaccination rate. We’re making great progress in Arkansas.”

The Natural State has just over 50% (50.6%) of its eligible population vaccinated, Tennessee right behind them with 49% (49.3%), and Mississippi 44%.

Also, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves was on NBC’s Meet the Press the same morning.

Mississippi’s COVID-19 state of emergency ended last Saturday, but, when asked if another would be reinstituted, Reeves did not give any indication that he would, simply that he would continue to encourage Mississippians to get vaccinated.

“We have 1.6 million Mississippians that have been vaccinated,” Reeves said. “That’s not enough, but in talking to our state health officers, we believe that somewhere between 80-85% of Mississippians have some level of immunity, either natural immunity or immunity from having taken the shots. And I think one of the things that we’ve all got to start thinking about is the booster shots, and encouraging, not mandating, but encouraging our fellow Mississippians to get vaccinated.

“The fact that we’re going into the holidays where people will mix and match a good deal, it’s a little bit... it’s a bit concerning.” said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld.

Dr. Threlkeld is also encouraging vaccinations as we approach Christmas, that if we plan to see loved ones in the older age ranges it’s best to help ensure their safety from the virus by adding the safety of the vaccine.

“We should switch our behavior in this pandemic now to protecting those people who can’t be protected themselves, and there are a substantial number of those people out there.” Dr. Threlkeld said.

“I’m much more optimistic about getting through this winter,” Hutchinson said. “Obviously, a new variant is a concern. Let’s get vaccinated, and that’s our best protection.”

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