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Austin researchers watching COVID-19 omicron variant, still concerned about delta variant

The UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium says it's concerned about another delta surge following holiday gatherings.

AUSTIN, Texas — When it comes to COVID-19 projections, Austin's future seems to be leveling out for the time being, according to the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

"Hospitalizations have decreased from what they were from the peak that we saw over the summer caused by the delta wave, and they've sort of plateaued to around 10 – between 10 and 20 hospitalizations per day," said Spencer Woody, a postdoctoral researcher with the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. 

However, Woody warned Austin tends to lag behind the rest of the country, which is currently seeing an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. 

"We can see a pretty significant rise, and that's pretty much a second delta wave," Woody said.

It's something researchers at the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium are watching as there is concern another spike could happen in the coming months, with the weather changing and holiday gatherings.

"So even if omicron turns out to be more of a minor worry, we're still concerned about a possible surge coming this winter," said Woody.

He said researchers are also keeping an eye on the omicron variant, pointing to reports of how the variant is behaving in South Africa.

"For delta, it took 100 days to go from 0% to 90% of cases. For omicron it took about 21 days to go from 0% to 90% of cases, so that's a very dramatic increase of speed for variant surging," said Woody.  

He explained researchers haven't nailed down the exact cause of that surge, but said it could be "either escape from prior immunity or increased transmissibility or both."

Woody said there are things people can do in the meantime to hopefully help Austin from seeing another surge, like wearing a mask, getting vaccinated or getting a booster shot.

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