PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – As this wave of COVID sweeps across the region, it’s raising concerns for all of us. How long will the surge last? How can I keep my family from getting infected? What should I do if I test positive?

Experts say this current surge is as bad or worse than the one we saw last December and the numbers should keep rising before it gets better. They say you should take extra steps to protect yourself and your family.

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With Omicron raging and Delta hanging on, the number of new infections is as high as any time during the pandemic and our regional hospital system says it’s expected to get worse before it gets better.

“This is projected to increase similar to last year and probably not plateau until mid to late January and not come back down until the end of February into March,” said Dr. Donald Whiting, Allegheny Health Network’s chief medical officer.

At the same time, there’s a nationwide shortage of nurses and more of the remaining ones are getting infected themselves, leaving skeleton crews to deal with a wave of new admissions. Whiting says local hospitals are nearing their breaking point.

“It’ll become a pretty critical situation over the next three to four weeks,” he said.

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The best thing for all involved is not getting the virus or spreading it, and that means returning to the basic preventative measures.

“What I do recommend to everybody, so over the next month, is everyone be super vigilant about masking even though it’s not mandated, I think anything indoors, anything around crowds, masking is the one way we can control the spread of this,” said Whiting.

If you do get COVID, you should call your primary care physician but the basic flu remedies apply: anti=inflammatories, Tylenol, rest and fluids. Monoclonal antibody treatments are in short supply as are the unproven post-infection pills coming on the market.

The hope here is that Omicron, though highly contagious, may pack less of a wallop than Delta. This could lead to shorter, more mild periods of sickness, especially for those who are vaccinated.

“If you’ve been vaccinated, it’s much better than it was last year. If you haven’t, it’s about the same as it was last year. And what I recommend people to do is to get vaccinated and also be very vigilant,” said Whiting.

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The message is to be vigilant because Omicron is highly contagious. And for the good of everyone, people should take extra precautions over the coming weeks to try to flatten the curve.