JOPLIN, Mo. — With growing attention on the latest variant of COVID-19, officials with Freeman Health System are talking about the risks — and what to do to protect yourself.

During today’s media briefing, officials said we’re all still learning about the “Omicron Variant” — which was just confirmed in the US today. They’re recommending people rely on established strategies — social distancing, wearing a mask and getting vaccinated. They also say the medical community is better equipped to handle a potential uptick in cases.

“More access to protective equipment. Our testing capacity went from we have no testing capacity two years ago two, we have a very robust supply of testing and medication. So this is a much better place two years into this pandemic, what we started with,” said Dr. Rob McNab, Freeman COVID-19 Services.

Officials say they currently have 20 COVID-19 patients — which is a slight increase. One patient is on a ventilator.