HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) – Connecticut’s COVID-19 positivity rate jumped to just under 6 percent, according to state statistics released on Tuesday.

The number came as health experts across the globe continue to keep a close eye on the new omicron variant.

Japan and France confirmed their first cases of the variant overnight. That brought the number of countries reporting cases of it to 19, Canada among them.

Travel restrictions are being tightened in many countries.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said as of Tuesday morning, he did not plan on imposing any new mask mandates or travel restrictions because most residents are vaccinated.

Doctors said the COVID vaccine is the best line of defense against the new strain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strengthened its recommendation on boosters and urged Americans to get the additional shot.

While there haven’t been any confirmed cases yet in the United States, health officials said the omicron variant likely already here.

The World Health Organization warned that the global risk from it is "very high."

"This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” President Joe Biden told Americans on Monday.

The omicron variant was first discovered by researchers in South Africa.

Scientists have been racing to answer questions about whether the variant poses a greater threat to the world.

“We know so far this variant has many mutations, many more than other variants have had,” said Dr. David Banach, head of infection prevention, UConn Health infectious diseases. “But we’re still trying to learn the significance of those different mutations.”

There are several key questions that doctors are working to answer.

 “[The first question is] does this variant seem to be more contagious, more transmissible between individuals?” Banach said. “Second question is does it cause more severe illness in people who do become infected?”

Scientists are also trying to get a better understanding of how effective vaccines are in protecting against this new strain.

In Waterbury, where health officials are seeing a steady rise in cases, around 62 percent of the city has one dose of the COVID vaccine, while around 55 percent are fully vaccinated.

That's pretty close with the state as a whole.

Some health experts say skipping a second dose can reduce efficacy significantly down the line.

"It will be reduced by approximately 40 to 50 percent, depending on which study you read," said Dr. Karl Minges, Interim Dean of the School of Health Sciences for the University of New Haven.

Waterbury's health director said to reach some amount of herd immunity, people need to follow through.

"Remember, you're not finished once you get through one dose. You have to follow the complete series. Get your first dose, get your second dose, don't just stop at one. Unless you're doing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” said Aisling McGuckin, director of the Waterbury Health Department.

Doctors say it's ok if your second dose is beyond the three- or four-week period.

Even months apart.

Health leaders are reminding folks about the importance of a second COVID dose.

In Connecticut, around 65 percent have had at least one dose.

Around 58 percent are fully vaccinated.

"The CDC says just get your second shot, even if you've gone above that three-to-four week period, even if it's been a couple months, there's no need to restart the series but please get your second shot,” said Dr. Syed Hussain, chief clinical officer for Trinity Health of New England.

The reduced efficacy would go down even more if you hold it off to the point you would need your booster.

Dr. Minges says people need to view the booster as a continuation of treatment.

Otherwise, variants like delta and possibly omicron will continue to spread.

"There's populations that are being reinfected having not received the booster shot. So, it's important to take into consideration that you're doing a community good by getting both full doses and then when the time comes, getting that booster shot,” Minges said.

Health experts across the globe continue to keep a close eye on the new omicron variant.

In the event our current vaccines aren't as effective against the omicron variant, Minges says it would take around two-to-three months to redesign a new vaccine that does.

Copyright 2021 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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