LUBBOCK, Texas — Katherine Wells, the director of the Lubbock Health Department, said Tuesday health officials predicted the variant would be identified sooner or later in the community.

“We assumed it’s here. We just didn’t have that laboratory confirmation,” Wells said.

The individuals who tested positive for the strain were tested in mid-December.

“We know it’s been circulating here for at least two weeks,” she shared.

Health officials expect a rise in new cases.

Wells said, “It’s disappointing and frustrating that we’re here again- looking at another surge- but we are really in a much better place than we were a year ago. The vaccines are making a huge difference.”

However, with unvaccinated individuals and seasonal illnesses spreading, the health department told EverythingLubbock that healthcare providers in the community could soon be overwhelmed again.

“What we’ve learned about COVID over the last two years is that it transmits in areas where there’s poor ventilation and lots of people gathering together,” Wells said, adding, ”That’s what happens in the winter.”

Now that the Omicron variant is spreading in Lubbock, the uptick in illnesses will be “much higher than we anticipated.”

Officials encouraged taking preventative measures- not just for your health and wellness but for others around you too.

“We’ve now given over 150,000 vaccines at the health department since last January, and that’s really helping to reduce the spread. It’s also helping to reduce severe illness,” Wells explained.

COVID Omicron Variant Confirmed in Lubbock

The Texas Tech University Bioterrorism Response Laboratory notified the City of Lubbock Public Health Department of lab results confirming the COVID-19 omicron variant. The individuals were tested at the city-sponsored testing site on December 14 and 16, 2021, and subsequent genotyping analysis identified the omicron variant. These are the first confirmed cases of the variant in the Lubbock area.

Omicron is highly transmissible and has the potential to make many people sick at the same time, which can overwhelm local medical resources. The health department expects the number of local cases to surge over the next few weeks. To help reduce this surge, everyone is encouraged to stay home or wear a mask if you have been exposed and get tested if you develop COVID symptoms.

All three vaccines protect against COVID-19 and its variants, and are available through the health department, pharmacies, medical offices, and community clinics. Everyone five years of age and older can and should get their vaccines.

This week the City of Lubbock Mini Hub, located at 2801 50th Street, will be open Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. COVID-19 drive up testing on the south side of the mini-hub will operate Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. No appointment is necessary for vaccinations or testing.