On Saturday, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) confirmed two cases in the state of the variant, bringing the number to at least 26 states.
“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 Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, in a release. “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.”
Of those initial, confirmed Omicron cases, more than half were among people between the ages of 18 and 39, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About one-third of the infections were among individuals who recently had traveled internationally, Walensky said during a news briefing Friday. And 80%, or 34 individuals, were fully vaccinated, including some who had recently received a booster.
Most of the Omicron infections so far have resulted in only mild symptoms, Walensky said, adding that’s in line with what would be expected among individuals who were fully vaccinated.
The two cases in Ohio were confirmed in males located in Central Ohio. Both received a positive PCR test on Dec. 7 and their symptoms are mild. The ODH says both completed their first COVID-19 vaccines more than six months ago, neither had yet gotten a booster and neither had recently traveled internationally.
Walensky and other public health officials said early data suggests that getting a vaccine booster could bolster protection against the new variant, urging anyone who is currently eligible — including the 16- and 17-year-olds who became eligible this week — to get a follow-up shot.
While the unknowns of the new variant still loom, officials emphasized that the highly transmissible Delta variant that caused the summer surge in infections still remains the main threat.
“Over 99% of cases in this country right now are caused by the Delta variant, which is driving increases in cases and hospitalizations,” Walensky said.
ODH's Vanderhoff agreed, saying in a release that, “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."
Ohio's COVID-19 dashboard tracks data not only for overall trends but also specific variants.
The seven-day average of COVID infections nationally increased by 37% over the last week, while hospitalizations increased by 16% and deaths rose by 28% over that same time period. Those rising numbers come after families gathered for Thanksgiving last month, and many are preparing for holiday gatherings this month.
Asked for any guidance for those wondering if they should reassess holiday travel plans, Walensky said gathering together this season will require Americans to be “vigilant” about safety precautions. She reiterated the need to ensure those getting together are fully vaccinated and boosted if possible, as well as wearing masks in the weeks leading up to any gatherings and taking a COVID-19 test.
A portion of this story was originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.
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