MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Two cases of the Omicron variant are in Shelby County, but health experts warn that those numbers could rise. It’s why the public is being encouraged to wear masks, get tested and vaccinated before holiday gatherings.

As the new Omicron variant begins to loom in Memphis and Shelby County, a warning from Health Department Director Dr. Michelle Taylor about the need for more people to get their booster shots for better protection against COVID.

“We know from early studies that the booster doses are providing some level of protection against the Omicron variant. Many of you know we already have two confirmed cases in the county, and I suspect will have more in the days and weeks to come,” Dr. Taylor said. “Get boosted if you haven’t already done so.”

Active COVID cases have already seen an uptick in just the past week. As of Thursday, the health department is reporting more than 1,900 active COVID-19 cases. That’s up from more than 1,600 cases last week.

Dr. Taylor blames holiday gatherings and more people letting down their guard.

“More people are gathering, and I don’t like to admit this, but I believe more people are being a little bit more laxed about how they protect themselves,” she said.

Protection and prevention are needed as we enter flu season while living in a pandemic. Dr. Taylor said the symptoms are like COVID.

“If you are experiencing cough, runny nose, headache, fever, it’s always good practice to not only get tested for COVID, but also get tested for the flu,” she said.

With the Christmas holiday now just days away, health experts say their best advice to the public would be regifting their same message from almost the past two years.

“If I can give one message today is to remind people, please, please wear your mask when you don’t know the vaccination status or illness status of the people around you particularly if you are in indoor public spaces,” Dr. Taylor said.

The health department said the Germantown Baptist vaccination site will close after Friday, Dec. 17, but the health department’s immunization clinic at 814 Jefferson will be open Monday through Friday to offer vaccinations for anyone five and older.