BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Governor John Bel Edwards and leaders from the Louisiana Department of Health gave an update Friday on the state’s response efforts to the Omicron COVID-19 variant. 

The Omicron variant has not been found in Louisiana yet but the governor said that doesn’t mean it’s not already in the state. He urges people to learn from the Delta surge over the summer and to not wait to get their vaccine or booster shot.

“The sooner you put these things in motion, the more protected you’re going to be,” Gov. Edwards said.

Louisiana is one of the states with the lowest COVID transmission right now. But the governor and State Health Officer are urging people to use this lull as a chance to be prepared for what the Omicron variant could bring.

“I am thinking of Omicron like a storm that is way, way out in the Gulf. You don’t know what the track is going to be, you don’t know exactly where it’s going to go, you don’t know exactly how strong it’s going to be when it gets there. But you’re paying attention and probably preparing,” said Dr. Kanter.

Dr. Kanter also said there is a lot the world still doesn’t know about Omicron. They don’t know if it’s more transmissible, more virulent, or if it is vaccine-resistant. People who are vaccinated and unvaccinated have caught it around the globe. He said it would be highly unlikely it would totally be resistant to vaccines so getting the vaccine and booster would offer some protection.

Governor Edwards said there are no plans to put in any kind of extra restrictions on top of what President Joe Biden announced this week.

“In a public health emergency you have to do what is necessary so that you can protect public health and if that is ever threatened because we are going to overwhelm our healthcare delivery system then I think everything is on the table,” Gov. Edwards said. “We don’t want to go back there. I don’t see that on the horizon.”

Louisiana’s eligible population is only 49% vaccinated and only 21.7% have gotten their booster shots.

The Omicron variant is able to be detected by PCR tests. The state has ramped up lab testing to track if the variant arrives in the state.

“LDH has established a network of laboratories and is proactively doing genomic sequencing on positive COVID cases,” Gov. Edwards said. “Which essentially means they are looking at the genetic code of the virus to determine if it’s the Omicron variant.”

The governor said almost 100% of the COVID-19 cases in Louisiana right now are the Delta variant. He said there is not a high enough vaccination rate to protect the state from future surges.