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Health officials ‘watching closely’ for omicron variant in Ohio

As more COVID-19 cases from the omicron variant are reported across the world and U.S., health officials in Ohio are keeping an eye out for the variant’s appearance in the Buckeye State.

The Ohio Department of Health uses genomic sequencing to track which variants are present in the state. Delta is dominant variant in the state, said ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.

Genomic sequencing performed on PCR tests when there’s enough of a sample and viral load for the procedure. The process is can take a a few weeks and cannot be conducted on most rapid antigen-based tests.

“Because we are sampling as many PCR tests as possible, if the omicron variant shows up in Ohio we’ll likely see it reasonably quickly in our state’s genetic sequencing data,” Vanderhoff said.

There have been two cases from the omicron variant confirmed in the U.S. The first cases was reported in California on Wednesday and the second in Minnesota on Thursday. The second case was confirmed in a Minnesota resident who attended Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center in New York City last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We don’t know yet if omicron will be more contagious, cause more severe or less severe illness or be more deadly,” Vanderhoff said. “But let’s remember that there were other variants of concern, like beta and mu, which spread rapidly in other parts of the world, but actually never took hold here.”

There is no indication that the vaccines do not protect against the omicron variant, he added.

“There’s a very important step you can take to protect yourself and tour community and that’s to get vaccinated,” Vanderhoff said. “With cases and hospitalizations on the rise from the delta variant and with a new variant on the horizon, now is the time to protect yourself.”


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