SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Between the holidays and the circulating omicron variant, Dr. Stephen Thacker says COVID-19 cases are expected to rise.

“I fully expect, and communities should be prepared for a rise in cases,” the associate chief medical officer for Memorial Health said. “The question is how high is that rise going to be?”

Health experts warn that the omicron variant is likely more contagious than the delta variant.

“This omicron variant is easier to spread from person to person,” Thacker said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when it comes to the omicron variant, breakthrough cases in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur.

Still, health experts say vaccines are still the best way to protect against COVID-19.

“Even though there’s a new variant that maybe is not as effectively controlled by a vaccination, it’s really clear that our vaccines help protect us from being infected and help keep us from being severely harmed if we do get infected,” said Thacker.

The doctor says for those who are fully vaccinated, it is important to get boosted, especially with the emerging omicron variant.

“It’s really clear that there’s a lot of benefit that’s gained from getting your COVID-19 booster shot when we talk about this new circulating variant,” Thacker said.

Health experts were already anticipating a rise in cases around the holidays, but officials say this new variant could contribute to the surge.

“We’ve had enough of these rise and falls and surges with COVID-19 that I think we can predict we’ll have an increased number of cases as we come out of the New Year time frame,” said Thacker.

He reminds the public of the importance of taking safety precautions this holiday season.

“The actions we take locally really do influence what it feels like in our local health systems,” Thacker said.

He says it is important to wear a mask whenever possible, especially if you are traveling or gathering with others this holiday season.

Thacker also says regardless of vaccination status, those who are eligible should get vaccinated and those who are already vaccinated should get boosted.