MASON CITY — The head of the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health says people should stay aware but not panic over the new variant of COVID-19.

The World Health Organization says the global risk from the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is “very high” based on early evidence. The United Nations health agency also says Omicron could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”

CG Public Health Director Brian Hanft says his agency was on a conference call with state health leaders on Monday to discuss the variant. “Right now I think the message is we are keeping our eye on things. I don’t think it’s reason to really get too worked up. This is nothing new. We’re seeing constant variants all the time. I think in a global situation, they’re keeping a close eye on this and we locally will continue to do that as well.”

Hanft says even with the new variant, his department’s message to the public continues to be the same.   “We continue to do vaccines a couple of days a week. People can reach out to their local pharmacy. Smaller groups over the holidays make sense. Wash your hands, standard wear masks if you are in large groups, that sort of thing.”

Hanft made his comments during today’s meeting of the Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors.