PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WRBL)- With a spike in Omicron COVID-19 cases News 3 spoke with Dr. Ritu Chandra about the complexity of this variant.

According to Dr. Chandra, the Omicron variant has been spreading rapidly, causing a high infection rate. Dr. Chandra said there could be an advantage to the Omicron variant spreading so rapidly.

“That is possibly the good news here, everybody is super worried that it’s spreading so fast and it’s affecting so many people. But the possible advantage is that if so many people get infected now it automtaically increases the herd immunity. Therefore, hopefully, Omicron could bring us out of this pandemic, that is our biggest hope,” Dr. Chandra said.

Dr. Chandra said the Omicron variant differs from the previous variants because of where it infects your body.

“The Omicron variant has the tendency to stay in the upper respiratory tract, the nose, and the throat. Whereas the Delta variant wanted to stay more in the lungs, therefore when the Delta variant affected the lungs of a person people got more sick and got into the hospital. Whereas the Omicron stays in the upper respiratory tract, therefore, less serious infection but more transmission,” Dr. Chandra said.

Dr. Chandra believes schools should wait before starting classes in person again.

“So it’s a sensitive topic I know, but personally I feel that with a very high transmission rate of Omicron in our community right now schools opening with full attendance is almost going to be like a perfect storm. If I can remind you a similar situation happened in August when the Delta variant was at its peak and schools opened and then several schools had to shut down for a week or two weeks at a time. The other constraint is that we don’t have enough testing available so that’s going to create a big pressure in the health care system so I’m really concerned about schools going back,” Dr. Chandra said.

Dr. Chandra wants everyone in the community to remember that Phenix City and Russell County have the lowest vaccination rate, especially in the pediatric population.

“I speak to parents all day long and the amount of resistance we encounter is very high. So, the percentage of kids who were fully vaccinated in the five to eleven-year-old age group in Russell County is about 6.4% to 6.5 % which is very low. I guess when the schools open the kids are just going to spread it, one to each other. The best possible thing we can do is to make sure there is 100% strict masking and done properly which means the mask is covering your nose and mouth,” Dr. Chandra said.

Dr. Chandra told News 3, Omicron has a shorter incubation period than the other variants which makes it more transmissible. She also stated there’s a difference in how the virus affects those who are vaccinated versus those who aren’t vaccinated.

“There is a huge big, difference, they say people who are not vaccinated have a 14 times higher chance of landing in the hospital as compared to somebody who is vaccinated. So the, people who are fully vaccinated and have a booster shot have the best protection and they are likely the ones who are going to have a milder case. Whereas the unvaccinated people may have a mild case or a bad case and land in the hospital,” Dr. Chandra said.