by Max Darrow

SAN MATEO (KPIX) — As of Saturday afternoon, no cases of the Omicron variant have been reported to the San Mateo County Health Department. However, evidence of the variant has been detected in the waste water, according to county health officials.

Public health officials and experts across the Bay Area say the variant is spreading rapidly.

“A booster dose as soon as you are eligible is essential to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19,” said Dr. Scott Morrow, San Mateo County health officer, in a press release. “Even if you were fully vaccinated earlier this year, a booster will increase your protection against the omicron variant.”

“I think that omicron being identified in a few cases so far — and growing — in the Bay Area, is the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UCSF.

Cars lined up throughout the day on Saturday at the San Mateo County Event Center, filled with people signed up to get booster shots.

“It just feels like there’s more of an urgency now to do it,” said Margaret Warren, who lives in Oakland. “I’m about seven months out from my second Moderna shot so I wanted to go ahead and get it in.”

Dr. Chin-Hong says research shows the omicron variant is more transmissible than prior variants but hasn’t yet been deemed to cause more severe illness.

He said vaccinations and booster shots will help keep people from getting seriously ill.

“We’re definitely going to emerge from this. I know folks have been really, really down about the recent chain of events,” Dr. Chin-Hong said. “The boosters will give you the best armor against what’s coming.”

Despite the push for boosters, San Mateo County is temporarily shutting down its large drive-thru vaccination site until Jan. 4, 2022. They will be transitioning from a drive-thru site to a walk-up site. The plan has been in the works for a while and it will give the county more flexibility for administering shots, according to a spokesperson.

There will still be several other vaccine sites open throughout the holiday season. People can search for appointments and locations at http://myturn.ca.gov and http://smchealth.org/vaccine-clinic-calendar