The latest variant of COVID-19 known as “Omicron” is upon us, and could already be here in the U.S.

Janet Hill, chief operating officer of the Rock Island County Health Department, compares the Omicron variant to the Delta variant. Both started in a foreign country and spread fast.

“It started in a different part of the world, but it quickly became the dominant variant,” Hill said of the Delta variant. “We can hope that Omicron doesn’t become Delta, but we just don’t have the information yet.”

Information health officials don’t yet know how lethal Omicron is: “What we don’t know is how serious of a variant this is,” Hill said.

Regardless, Hill joins many other health officials across the country in saying that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, something many in Rock Island and surrounding counties have yet to do.

“The best protection against this variant is to be vaccinated,” Hill said. “We have about 50% of people in Rock Island County who have yet to be vaccinated, so getting that first dose is your best protection.”

As far as the new Omicron variant goes, she says we will likely know more very soon.

“In the next week or so, we’re going to be able to answer more of those questions,” Hill said.