SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– COVID-19 testing is ramping up as the Ozarks wait for the likely arrival of the Omicron variant, holiday travel and Christmas gatherings.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department says on Wednesday and Thursday more than 200 people will get tested at its clinic on East Battlefield in Springfield.

OzarksFirst spoke with folks about what’s driving demand for testing this week.

“We are getting a COVID test before the holidays. My mom is coming from out of town. It’s what the CDC is asking us to do, so we’re just trying to be as safe as we can be,” says Will Crites, who received a COVID-19 test with his wife and two kids on Wednesday.

Another couple says they will keep their gathering to less than 10 people, but several will be traveling from places outside of Springfield.

“All of us are testing. We hope that everyone will test negative, and we’ll feel more comfortable getting together,” added the couple.

Greene County is now averaging more than 100 news cases each day, but so far, community spread is still only being driven by the Delta variant.

Health officials say they are sending a portion of local positive tests to a state lab for sequencing.

“They look at the DNA of those virus samples and determine if they are the Delta variant and we’re also looking out for the Omicron variant now,” Aaron Schekorra with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said. “We have sent some samples off. You know, right now and in the past Delta has been the dominant variant here in Greene County. We do expect that soon we will start to detect the Omicron variant.”

As of Monday, the CDC reports the Omicron variant makes up more than 70% of new cases across the United States.

“Especially with the way that numbers are starting to go up again, I think we need to do everything we can to try to prevent it,” Will Crites said.

It’s prompting the health department to urge folks to do what they can to not bring the infection back to the Ozarks this holiday season.

“Just be smart. If you’re feeling ill, I know it’s hard to pass up a family gathering for a holiday, but if you’re sick, it’s not worth it, so stay home, stay away from others, and seek testing as soon as possible,” Schekorra said.

Local health officials are also encouraging families to consider getting tested for COVID-19 again before returning to work or school after the holidays.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department recommends folks get tested about five days after a big gathering, or anytime you start feeling symptoms of COVID-19.

If you’d like to schedule your COVID-19 tests following the holiday weekend, call the Springfield-Greene County Health Department at 417-874-1211.