Experts warn of spike in new COVID-19 cases from omicron, delta variants ahead of holidays

'Like a very large ship, it has a lot of momentum'
Posted at 3:39 PM, Dec 20, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Experts are warning Southern states should prepare for a new wave of COVID-19 cases spurred by the omicron variant ahead of the holidays — all while also continuing to fight the delta variant.

New York City has been hit with an omicron-fueled spike of new cases in recent days. Doctors in Tennessee say they are waiting on the other shoe to drop. "This does have the potential to be very very dangerous," said Dr. Peter Rebeiro, an expert in infectious diseases and epidemiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

He canceled plans to go see his sister this holiday season due to surging COVID-19 cases.

"I erred on the side of protecting my family, she comes into contact with patients with small children," Rebeiro said.

While early data indicates omicron is less likely to cause severe disease, it's now co-circulating with the delta variant. Doctors said they are starting to see an increase in hospitalizations too.

"Remember that 1% of a million is 10,000, it’s thousands of deaths, thousands of hospitalizations we’re talking about," Rebeiro said.

That's why he's encouraging people to get the booster shot. "So, if you can do your part to help prevent somebody else from getting severely ill, or dying, I would hope people would be interested," Rebeiro said.

Rebeiro has been following the omicron outbreak in South Africa and Denmark to see what we can expect in Tennessee.

"We’re seeing a lot of omicron transmission, there’s a characteristic spike in transmission, an expected two to three-day doubling time," Rebeiro said.

Additionally, he's encouraging everyone to mask up and be vigilant. "Unfortunately, our baseline level of COVID transmission never dropped very low after the prior peaks in the late summer," Rebeiro said. "Like a very large ship, it has a lot of momentum."

The Nashville Predators have halted operations due to an outbreak. This past weekend, the University of Tennessee and University of Memphis basketball game in Nashville was canceled due to an increase in new positive COVID-19 cases.