SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Concern over COVID-19 variants, specifically the omicron variant has prompted Lackawanna County to declare a state of emergency.

The county commissioners along with health officials declared the emergency Monday afternoon.

Lackawanna County officials say they are trying to get ahead of the surge in COVID-19 cases because the omicron variant, which is more contagious than the delta variant, is the biggest threat to the public.

“Do hereby declare the existence of an emergency in Lackawanna County due to COVID-19,” said Frank Ruggiero, Lackawanna County Solicitor.

Lackawanna County officials say they can set the wheels in motion to respond quicker to any emergency that results from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The declaration enables the county, among other things, to access federal and state resources to address the spread of COVID-19.

“So we have to act now. We can’t wait until it gets bad. So we have to act,” said Dr. Sabine Charles, Physician, Epidemiologist, Lackawanna County Health Department.

Health officials say COVID-19 cases are spiking in the county and believe that the omicron variant, which is more contagious than any variant, could add to that spike.

“Omicron is very different from the other variants we already know within a month’s time it’s become the dominant variant in the world and it gives you an idea how quickly it is spreading,” said Bill Browning, Director Human Services, Lackawanna County.

The declaration urges the public not to come to county-owned buildings unless absolutely necessary and all county meetings will now be held virtually.

“We just want the public to abide by the recommendations especially masking. We are encouraging businesses to have mandator masking in place. We believe that is one of the best ways of preventing measures,” Browning said.

The county will also set up a mass public testing site to be manned by health experts.

“So now we know we’re going to have to make a concentrated effort once again. Rely on testing to help the public understand what’s going on and help them have access to resources that we see have been reported on as strained in other parts of the community,” said Jason Kavulich, Director, Area Agency on Aging.

County officials say they will be releasing information about the testing site by the end of the week.