BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — COVID cases continue to rise across central Alabama and Jefferson County’s community levels are now considered ‘high’ by the CDC. That’s according to the Jefferson county Department of Health.

CBS42 spoke with local doctor, Amy Illescas about this recent COVID surge and she tells us where the sudden increase is likely coming from and what you need to know to stay protected.

Dr. Illescas says coming out of the holiday season, we’ve experienced cold weather, our guard is down, and there’s limited mask wearing. The chance for transmission is there, and she calls it the perfect storm.

Although COVID cases have risen significantly in Jefferson County, she says, thankfully, ICU admissions and deaths are not trending up.

“And we seem to be making enough progress to stay afloat, but part of that is because the virus has become sort of a less ferocious guy over the past two years,” said Dr. Illescas, owner of Total Care 280. “And so, we aren’t seeing the same mortality number we did with the original COVID-19.”

She says several recent cases stem from the latest omicron variant. It would be ideal to anticipate future subvariants to help prevent cases, but she says the virus is ever-changing, making that impossible at this time.

“Only once they leave us a fingerprint, and we can detect who they are, then we can sort of see the chink in their armor and attack it there,” said Dr. Illescas. “And so, we are always going to be playing catch up several months behind whatever the variant is that’s coming out next.”

Dr. Illescas says what we can do to help prevent the spread is use good judgement, follow CDC guidelines, and seriously consider getting updated vaccinations.

“This is an individual decision,” said Dr. Illescas. “Another booster is not right for everyone, but the next booster is not wrong for everyone either. So, you really need to have someone who knows you and knows your medical case that will sit down and really take your questions serious.”

Dr. Illescas says current COVID symptoms can emulate symptoms for the common cold and flu, so it’s important to self-monitor, get tested, or see a doctor if needed to protect yourself and others.