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Local testing sites see record numbers of COVID-19 infections

50% of people being tested for the virus are positive at Midland Memorial Hospital testing sites.

MIDLAND, Texas — The omicron variant is raging through the country, and our community is no exception. Testing sites are seeing some of the highest numbers of positive cases they have seen since the start of the pandemic.

"Our preliminary cases have increased ninefold from this time last month, and we are almost three times higher than we were this time last year," said Dr. Whitney Craig, of the Midland Health Department.

This is a number of people testing positive that health officials have not seen before.

"719 positive cases in a week is far and away the highest number we've ever seen," said President of Midland Memorial Hospital, Russell Meyers. "I couldn't even find 500 in a week, and this past week we've had 700, so it is rampant in the community and in the work force, and everywhere."

Experts say the culprit is the omicron variant.

"The state estimates 96% of the current infections in the state of Texas are the omicron variant," said Meyers

The variant is moving through populations differently than previous strains.

"It's highly infectious," said Meyers "I think the other indications we've seen, the course of the infection seems to be shorter, people get sick and get well faster. It seems to be less likely to cause severe lung issues."

Even though the variant is less severe in most cases, people are still dying.

"We are still having deaths, we've had 15 deaths so far in the month of January, on pace to be one of the higher numbers we've had during the course of COVID," said Meyers.

The variant is also running through schools.

"We have 147 staff members and 451 students that are currently in isolation due to COVID-19," said Superintendent of MISD, Dr. Angelica Ramsey. "Now for comparisons sake, on our first Monday back last week we had 119 employees and 276 students."

Although the future of where we will go from here is unknown, health officials believe getting the vaccine is a good tool in fighting the virus.

"It is very clear at this point that there is no better defense against this disease than to be vaccinated," said Meyers.