HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – With a new COVID-19 variant identified, many are concerned they may not know how to ensure their safety against it.

All we know right now is that the variant was discovered almost one week ago coming out of Africa. We also know this new variant has more genetic mutations than previously discovered variants.

Dr. Sherri Young with the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department says, although there are so many unknowns right now, there are steps people can take to remain safe.

What should I do to make sure I’m safe?

“We need to be aware that this variant is out there, there’s going to continue to be variants as long as we’re dealing with COVID-19. So always remember to keep yourself safe by washing your hands, using hand sanitizer frequently. If you’re in large crowds – even if you’re vaccinated right now, because we don’t know a lot about the Omicron variant and how well it’ll do with the vaccinations, it is a good idea to go ahead and wear that mask,” explains Young.

She says it will take health officials “several days” to look at the data and determine how effective the current COVID-19 vaccine is against it, and to determine what, if any, additional safety measures need to be taken.

Will we ever go back to “pre-COVID-19” normalcy?

“The honest truth – and this is what’s really hard to hear – is that; COVID-19 is so endemic in our society right now and worldwide – not just limited to the United States, but worldwide. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to completely eradicate it. Our best defense would be to vaccinate, but that’s going to mean mass vaccinations all across the United States and throughout the world to really try to stamp out the pandemic,” says Young.

Young says “the best thing we can do is try to adapt” to a new normal – which means being able to gather, but also being extra safe and careful.