KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — While health leaders report delta as the dominant COVID-19 variant in the Knox County community, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday omicron made up three-quarters of COVID cases across the nation. Knox County detected its first case of omicron last week.

As people still crowd malls and run last-minute errands headed into the holidays, the Director of Nursing for the Knox County Health Department had a warning.

“Where are you potentially being exposed?,” Dena Mashburn began. “Be thinking about that as you are out shopping in crowds, the mask, it can help, or going to that workout session, or that practice, that music session, those areas where we’ve known the places where we know the COVID virus tends to spread easily.”

An Infectious Disease Specialist with Covenant Health fears when people hear the symptoms from omicron might be less severe, it could leave a false sense of security.

“There’s some false comfort in the ‘it may not be as severe,’ because if it’s more transmissible and you get a much greater number of infections you can still overwhelm the healthcare system,” said Dr. John Adams.

Doctor Adams also fears if people get too lax headed into the holidays, the community will feel the impact later. “It’s not doing a rapid climb right now, I have a feeling we’re going to see that kind of after the holidays,” said Adams of the recent case counts.

Adams also said he and his team at Parkwest Medical Center have a plan in place if there is a surge following the holiday season. He said it’s not just about being able to care for patients, but also about his staff.

“We’re tired, we’ve lost a lot of staff, we’ve got a lot of very exhausted staff, a lot of very dedicated people that are sticking it out,” he said.

Doctor Adams and Mashburn agreed, the same steps we’ve taken over the last two-years will decide how we start 2022.

“Wash your hands, wear your mask, social distance, get vaccinated, care for other people, and enjoy these holidays as best you can,” said Adams.