AUSTIN (KXAN) — Although only three cases of omicron have been officially confirmed in Austin-Travis County, health leaders said the omicron variant could have already overtaken the delta variant in Texas and here locally.

In a briefing Tuesday morning, health leaders urged the community to mask up during private indoor gatherings, while holiday shopping and in other high-risk settings. They report three cases of the omicron variant have officially been detected through sequence testing at the University of Texas.

They’re also waiting on other sequence tests from Austin-Travis County to produce additional results.

Regardless, health leaders reported more than 90% of cases in the region Texas is in are predicted to be the omicron variant. Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, cited CDC data when making that announcement.

Variants Region 6
CDC Region 6 variant tracker including Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas (courtesy CDC)

“We have community transmission of omicron right now and it is quickly taking over delta cases in our community,” said Janet Pichette, Austin Public Health’s chief epidemiologist.

Without dramatic changes in community behavior, the omicron variant could force a surge in hospitals unlike anything we’ve seen previously, according to a report done by the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, which has not been peer reviewed yet.

Walkes said we could see our intensive care units overrun by hundreds of people over the next few weeks.

“As of last week, we heard reports from the United Kingdom that we’re not sure that this is not as severe a disease as the delta variant so we really must take time and take stock to do the things that we know will help us prevent the spread in our community,” Walkes said. “We cannot let our hospital system down, we cannot let our healthcare workers down.”

Health leaders are again asking the community to practice all the COVID-safe behaviors they’ve been preaching for the better part of two years.

“If we don’t act now we’re going to have a very hard new year. This variant of this virus is not joking, it is moving fast and furiously,” Walkes said.