By: KDKA-TV’s Shelley Bortz

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – UPMC weighed in on the Omicron variant of COVID-19 at a news conference Thursday.

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Doctors said the spread of the latest variant is far from surprising and is very likely not the last variant we will see.

The new Omicron variant is more frightening to people than the Delta variant because of the unknowns surrounding it right now. That’s why doctors say we have to continue to be diligent with our safety measures.

“As long as the virus is spreading around the world, there will be an opportunity for a new, potentially more dangerous variant,” said UPMC Medical Director of Infection Prevention Dr. Graham Snyder.

The U.S. recorded its first known Omicron infection on Wednesday and its second and third Thursday, just one week after hearing about the new variant.

“Definitely makes us nervous. We both had COVID back in November. My husband is just now getting over that,” said Trudy Friend from Bethel Park.

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A UPMC panel of three leading experts said Thursday there isn’t much known about Omicron at this point, including whether it is more contagious than previous versions.

Snyder said what we do know is that we must continue to take the necessary precautions to stay safe, especially during the holidays.

“Masking, distancing, getting vaccinated and staying home if sick is how we stay safe from new variants,” he said.

Seasonal flu cases are rapidly climbing which UPMC leaders say means busy emergency departments may become even more crowded with patients suffering from COVID and now the flu.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Donald Yealy addressed the hospital’s capacity and growing COVID-19 inpatient volume.

“We’re focused on being as efficient and as effective as possible. We want to provide every minute of care you need in a hospital but not a minute longer,” said Yealy.

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The doctors stressed the importance of also getting the flu vaccine as soon as possible.