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Omicron variant detected in Ohio, state health department says

Virus Outbreak US
Posted at 2:59 PM, Dec 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-11 15:00:25-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The COVID-19 omicron variant has been detected in Ohio through genomic sequencing, the Ohio Department of Health said Saturday.

The variant

According to health officials, the testing was done by The Ohio State University Laboratory.

The two cases were found in adult males in the central part of the state. Both individuals tested positive on Dec. 7 via a PCR test. Health officials said both males received their initial dose of the vaccine six months ago but neither have received a booster.

The two men both have mild symptoms and have not been hospitalized. ODH said the men did not travel out of the country. Health officials are working to learn more about where they may have been infected and are conducting contact tracing.

The two omicron positive tests represent around 0.2% of around the 1,000 tests sequenced by the OSU lab, ODH said. The other cases have all been the delta variant.

"We have known that it would only be a matter of time until a case of Omicron was detected in Ohio. The CDC believes that this variant has likely been circulating in the U.S. since November,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff, MD, MBA. “This variant’s arrival and the continued impact of the delta variant underscore the importance of our best prevention tool, which is choosing to be vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines, coupled with prevention measures, provide the greatest protection from severe illness resulting in hospitalization or death. If you have not yet been vaccinated, or are eligible for a booster dose, now is the time to go and get your shot.”

He continued, “While the arrival of Omicron in Ohio is noteworthy, we must not lose sight of the fact that the delta variant continues to drive cases and hospitalizations very high. As of yesterday, there were 4,422 patients in the hospital with COVID-19, a high that matches what we experienced in January of 2021 during last winter’s surge. The hospitalizations in this delta surge are largely being driven by unvaccinated Ohioans. Severe illness with COVID-19 is largely preventable thanks to vaccines.”

Vanderoff said early reports from South Africa indicate that omicron may be more contagious and more likely to reinfect people.

"Naturally, there has been concern regarding whether vaccines would remain protective. The results of the early research regarding vaccines are encouraging, reinforcing the benefits of primary vaccination and timely boosters," Vanderhoff said. “If you test positive for COVID-19, how you and public health officials react should not be determined by the variant you have. Regardless of which variant may be spreading, isolation and quarantine remain key in preventing further spread of the virus. If you are sick with symptoms of COVID-19, you should immediately get tested. Even if you are vaccinated, it is important to follow prevention measures to protect yourself and others and to minimize the spread of the virus.”

COVID-19 in Ohio

Saturday, the ODH reported 8,072 cases of coronavirus in the state. That's higher than the 21-day average of 6,541 cases. In the last day, 313 people have been hospitalized and 35 people have been admitted to the ICU.

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Nearly 59% of the state's population have at least one dose of the vaccine. More than 53% of the population have been fully vaccinated, and more than 2 million out of the 11.69 million people in Ohio have had a booster shot, according to the ODH.

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