LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — State and federal health officials are sounding the alarm today as the U.S. now has more reported cases of the COVID variant omicron.

Mark Pandori with the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory is urging Nevadans to get vaccinated.

“Should we be concerned about this virus? We should be concerned about a surge with COVID, SARS and others in the wintertime regardless of omicron,” Pandori said.

Pandori leads the lab that is charged with protecting the health of Nevadans and visitors through the rapid detection of public health threats. He is a full-time faculty member at the UNR medical school.

“It’s important to note that vaccines are still going to be a good defense against omicron, if not perfect,” he said.

“It will offer some degree of protection. We’ve seen this with other variants,” Pandori said.

A press bulletin from Nevada Health Response released late Thursday said, “Preliminary data from Italy, Israel and South Africa suggest that fully vaccinated individuals generally present with mild illness with the omicron variant and are less likely to be hospitalized than unvaccinated individuals.”

The variant is different because it has many mutations, increasing the chance that it can evolve rapidly. That could mean higher chances of transmission and the possibility that the immune system won’t fight it, according to the press bulletin.

Ellie Graeden with Nevada Health and Human Services recommends parents get children ages 5 and older vaccinated.

“We are lucky with this virus that it does not cause a severe disease as frequently in children,” Graeden said. ” But we need to do what we can.”

Duane Young with the Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office reminded Nevadans about wearing face masks.

“We will continue to have indoor masking regardless of vaccination status throughout the holiday season and into the new year,” he said.

Today, President Joe Biden laid out new actions to tackle the omicron variant. They include stricter COVID testing requirements for international air travelers and extending mask mandates on public transportation.

Everyone — including those who are vaccinated — must now get tested for COVID-19 a day before departing for the U.S.

“This tighter testing timetable provides an added degree of protection as scientists continue to study the omicron variant,” Biden said.