BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)– On Monday, there are over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases across the state. This comes less than two weeks before travel picks up for the holiday.

As families start traveling and coming together for the holidays, concerns lurk among healthcare workers.

“We are 40% increase in hospitalizations and a rapid increase in deaths, again over 1,000 deaths a day in this country due to COVID-19 still,” said Our Lady of the Lake Chief Medical Officer Dr. Catherine O’Neal.

She said higher COVID-19 numbers are not unusual this time of the year.

“We knew we would be here, it’s the winter surge, and we could have predicted this because the winter surge last year came right after Thanksgiving. We know that it’s respiratory season and COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, so none of this is shocking to us. But it’s still hard to see because the number of deaths were something that we really thought that we would impact,” said O’Neal.

Omicron variant numbers are slowly increasing in the state with 40 probable and five confirmed. Three probable cases are in the Baton Rouge area.

“It’s presenting a lot like Delta, so nasal congestion, sinus congestion first and then a cough. Some people are going on to have more severe disease. That severe disease has not been well described yet. We do know that it is re-infecting people who have natural immunity but no vaccinated immunity, and a much higher rate than we saw with Delta, which is concerning,” she said.

She said the new variant could be a little trickery to deal with when it comes to vaccinations.

“Even when your vaccine is not perfect for your variant. When you were two shots in an especially when you are boosted, you end up having a shotgun approach to antibodies,” said O’Neal. “So what we are seeing is while it’s not a perfect match to people who have had one shot with J&J or even two shots with Pfizer and Moderna, when people get boosted, that final maturation, that huge amount of antibody response that they bring with the booster is effective against Omicron. It’s still very, very early data, but it does look like boosted people have enough neutralizing antibody to be able to overcome the virus and have a mild illness, if an illness at all.”

Before you head to grandma’s this Christmas, Dr. O’Neal encourages people to stay safe.