LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) Health officials say the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly in the U.S. and in Louisiana, and it’s now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the country.

“We do know that Omicron is circulating right now in our community, and so we do think that most of the cases we see circulating are going to be Omicron,” Ochsner Health Medical Director of Infection Control and Prevention Dr. Katherine Baumgarten said.

She says that includes Louisiana and Acadiana.

The CDC says last week, 73% of new COVID-19 infections in the U.S. were the Omicron variant.

Here in Louisiana, the number of Omicron cases are jumping as well.

“It also appears that this is the case for Louisiana, and we’ve gone from 2% of sequencing being positive to 32% of sequences for Omicron in only a week,” Dr. Baumgarten added.

As for hospitalizations, Ochsner Health officials say there’s been a slight increase.

“We have seen a trend towards increased numbers of hospitalizations, but not as severe as we had with prior surges,” Dr. Baumgarten told News Ten.

To stop the variant from spreading more, medical leaders are continuing to encourage people to get the vaccine.

“Even with Omicron, we know the vaccines work and keep people out of the hospitals and prevent deaths.” she said.

Dr. Baumgarten says getting tested for COVID-19 and wearing a mask can also keep you protected.

“Testing, vaccinating, and masking are all ways you can reduce that risk with any gathering,” she said.

Health officials also say people should consider having holiday get-togethers outside this year to stop the spread of COVID-19.

If you choose to have a party inside, they recommend wearing masks.