WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Health experts in Jefferson County are voicing their concerns as the holiday season is now in full swing and COVID rates are already spiking.

Prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, Jefferson County’s seven-day positivity rate hit 10%, the highest rate the county had logged in months. Then following the holiday week on November 29, the county’s rate reached 12%. This was after 342 COVID-10 cases were confirmed in a five-day period.

These rates, according to Jefferson County Public Health Service’s Faith Lustick, match the “timeline” of infection the county previously saw in January and February 2021.

However, she said, unlike last winter, the recent spread of COVID-19 can be attributed to variants with higher transmission capabilities.

“We have the delta variant circulating, and that is more transmissible than the alpha, beta, earlier variants. So this infects maybe four other people, rather than just one other person,” Lustick said. “So because of that, we see many more people with COVID than we did in the past.”

Lustick warned that the spread of newer variants has the potential to create a larger COVID-19 outbreak this holiday season if precautions are not taken.

“It’s just simple math If you think about it,” she said. “If one person can infect four it’s going to keep spreading like that. So we really need to get people who are symptomatic, they really need to stay home.”

Addressing the recently identified omicron variant, Lustick added that guidance, for now, will not change unless Jefferson County receives new protocols from scientists studying the variant.

“We need to let the scientists study this before we know more about it,” she added. “But my advice doesn’t change. It’s the same advice, no matter what variant at this point. In 10 to 14 days, we’ll know more.”

Jefferson County Health experts are also continuing residents to get all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Especially as the delta variant continues to spread and threats of new variants loom. Clinics are held weekly and appointments can be scheduled on the JCPHS website.

Jefferson County remains designated as an area of high community transmission. Since the start of the pandemic, 128 residents have died from the virus and there have been 13,033 confirmed cases.