Omicron variant is found in Washington state, details of cases unknown
The omicron variant landed in Washington state over the weekend in people from three different counties in the Puget Sound area.
The Department of Health confirmed on Saturday that three people in their 20s and 30s had tested positive for the omicron variant, from Thurston, Pierce and King counties. Health officials said they didn’t think the cases were linked.
Symptoms, travel history, vaccination status and other details on the three cases were still not available on Monday.
Health officials have said omicron is a cause for concern but not panic.
“The next few weeks will be crucial in determining how this variant spreads relative to the delta,” Secretary of State for Health Dr Umair Shah said on Saturday.
The state public health lab, in addition to the University of Washington virology lab and private labs statewide, are sequencing COVID-19 samples positive for the new variant.
Preliminary reports suggest the new variant may be as transmissible as the delta, said King County health officer Dr Jeff Duchin.
“Preliminary data suggests that this virus can spread even more easily than the delta variant, and furthermore, preliminary data suggests that people who have had COVID-19 in the past are more likely to be re-infected with omicron. “Duchin told reporters on Saturday.
Duchin and other health officials expect to see more cases in the coming weeks.
The arrival of a new variant has boosted demand for vaccines, including booster doses in the state. Washington will receive 70,000 additional doses of Moderna this week, to meet increased demand.
It is still not clear how virulent omicron infections are or how severe the disease is with the variant compared to other variants.
Some confirmed cases of omicron in the United States involve fully vaccinated people with mild symptoms.
The omicron variant has been detected in 18 states so far.
While there are no public health labs sequencing positive samples for the variants in Spokane, state and local health officials have said eastern Washington is covered.
Positive cases from Spokane County are usually sent to the Shoreline State Public Health Laboratory or the University of Washington.
“With the past variants we have had timely information and the public health lab will continue to sequence a percentage of the cases as it has done in the past,” Dr Francisco VelÃ¡zquez said in a statement to The Spokesman -Review. âLocally, we will be tracking clinical history, such as international travel, to identify cases that may need to be sequenced so that we can send them directly to the public health laboratory. “
While more than 74% of the state’s population aged 12 and over is fully vaccinated, there are still pockets, particularly in eastern Washington, where the majority of people do not begin vaccination. It is these regions that are worrying public health officials with the arrival of omicron.
âWe are vulnerable in our unvaccinated communities where cases could spread very quickly, and likely the burden of severe disease will be in those unvaccinated,â Duchin told reporters.
Here is an overview of local numbers
The Spokane Regional Health District reported 68 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths on Monday.
There have been 1,109 deaths from the virus among residents of Spokane County. There are 69 hospital patients with COVID-19 in hospitals in Spokane.
The Panhandle Health District has reported 154 new cases of the virus and a dozen new deaths.
There have been 734 deaths from COVID-19 among residents of Panhandle. There are 77 residents of Panhandle hospitalized with the virus.