Monty Health Officer Gives Advice on the Omicron Variant and Celebrating the Holidays
By Devangi Patel | December 24, 2021
Montgomery Township Health Officer
COVID cases are surging locally, statewide, and nationwide due to the emergence of a highly contagious new variant, Omicron. The timing is bad, because many of us are looking forward to gathering with family for Christmas and New Year’s.
I urge Montgomery residents to reevaluate Christmas and New Year’s plans, even if your household is fully vaccinated. Consider reducing the number of people gathering and ask everyone to get a COVID test before gathering.
This past week, some residents were able to purchase at-home rapid tests at local pharmacies, although demand may exceed supply. Also, New Jersey is offering free saliva tests. You may also be able to get tested at a local pharmacy or doctor’s office. Plan for the possibility you may need to schedule your testing appointment several days in advance.
When you are out and about, please wear a mask, even in places where masks are not required.
The good news is that 95 percent of Montgomery residents ages five and older are now vaccinated, one of the highest rates anywhere in the nation. That protects most of us from severe illness and death. However, we must be concerned about the high transmissibility of Omicron and take precautions.
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The best thing you can do is to get a booster shot if you are eligible. So far, 42 percent of Montgomery adults have done so, but we can do better. Studies show that the vaccines are effective against Omicron, and boosters dramatically improve the effectiveness of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
With thoughtful precautions, this can be a much more joyous Christmas and New Year's Day than a year ago, before the widespread availability of vaccines.
The Montgomery Township Health Department on Tuesday, December 28, will hold a Moderna booster clinic at the Otto Kaufman Community Center from 2 to 7pm. Sign up now through the New Jersey scheduling system, as demand is expected to be high.
For assistance, call the state helpline at 855.568.0545 between 8 am and 8 pm. Or call the Montgomery Township Health Department at 908.544.4330 on Monday. (Note that the Recreation Department at the Otto Kaufman Community Center is not able to help with appointments.)