(NewsNation Now) — Many people testing positive for COVID-19 in Texas initially mistook their symptoms for allergies, according to state health leaders.
Overwhelmingly, local contact tracers are learning that people who tested positive for COVID-19 before the holidays thought they were experiencing cedar fever or other seasonal allergies, said Janet Pichette, chief epidemiologist of Austin Public Health.
Cedar counts have been elevated in the Austin area for the past few days.
Local health leaders are asking that anyone experiencing symptoms or those planning to travel or gather undergo COVID-19 testing.
It remains unknown how easily the omicron variant spreads, the severity of illness it causes or how well available vaccines and medications work against it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The first confirmed U.S. case of omicron was identified Dec 1 and by Dec. 20, the variant had been detected in most states and territories, according to the CDC.
The CDC recommends full vaccination for everyone at least 5 years old to protect against COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death.
Without testing and proper precautions, people assuming their symptoms are allergies could unintentionally spread COVID-19 to other people.
Bottom line: If you feel sick, health leaders ask that you stay home.
“We could have so many cases occur in such a short period of time and so many people having mild illness and just enough people who are at risk of severe illness … we will overrun our hospitals,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, said heading into the holidays.
On Sunday, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor acknowledged that he was frustrated with the limited supply of COVID-19 tests.
Demand for tests has risen amid the surge fueled by the omicron variant.
“We’ve obviously got to do better,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I think things will improve greatly as we get into January, but that doesn’t help us today and tomorrow,” Fauci said.
Fauci was pleased with evidence that omicron causes less severe illness for most people, he said. He warned against complacency, however, noting that rapid spread of the disease could “override a real diminution in severity.”
In light of test shortages, President Joe Biden has said the federal government will buy half a billion COVID-19 rapid test kits and distribute them free of charge to people to use at home.
The first batch of the 500 million tests isn’t expected until early January. The administration is still finalizing details for how the program will work.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.