Arkansas Testing

A drive-thru testing site for COVID-19 at UAMS Medical Center in Little Rock (Photo by KATV)

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The omicron strain of COVID is on everyone's radar. While we don't know much about it, we do know it is spreading at a rapid pace.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID map shows most states bordering Arkansas have the omicron variant, including Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

"It's a good chance that omicron is already here in Arkansas with it being in all of the surrounding states," said Dr. Robert Hopkins, UAMS Director of Divisions of General Internal Medicine.

He said to know for sure, there needs to be genetic testing of the virus.

"Generally, that takes a little time. It's not as quick as the nasal PCR test or the rapid COVID test," Hopkins said.

KATV reached out to the Department of Health to check their records of the COVID variant. Officials said the report for the week is not out yet, but as of right now, the variant has not been found in Arkansas.

With so many unknowns, medical professionals say it's best to treat this variant just like the others.

"We really need to have the same set of precautions for omicron as we had for delta and all of the other COVID viruses," Hopkins said.

He went on to say it is especially important with the severity of the virus.

"If we look at the data from South Africa, it looks like we are seeing an increase in cases in parallel with omicron," Hopkins said. "So it looks like omicron is at least competitive with delta, meaning it's in the same range of infectious or could be even more infectious."

Hopkins adds we should focus on what we do know which includes getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, and protecting ourselves and others.

This article originally ran on ktbs.com.

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