Omicron Detected In Oregon


oregon health authority

Oregon’s first three cases of Omicron-variant COVID-19 have been confirmed in Washington and Multnomah counties. Oregon Health & Science University Laboratory conducted the sequencing that detected the variant Dec. 13. The samples the laboratory tested were from:

  • A Multnomah County resident in their 20s, tested on Dec. 7, who was fully vaccinated. The individual traveled internationally to Canada prior to symptom onset. Additional details on the condition of the individual are not yet available.
  • A Washington County resident in their 20s, tested on Dec. 9, who was fully vaccinated. Additional details on the condition of the individual are not yet available.
  • A Washington County resident in their 30s, tested on Dec. 9, who was fully vaccinated. The individual traveled internationally to Mexico prior to symptom onset. Additional details on the condition of the individual are not yet available.

“On Dec. 1, when the first case was reported in the United States, we shared that it was a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if,’ the Omicron variant of COVID-19 would be detected in Oregon,” said Dean E. Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist at Oregon Health Authority.

“We recognize this news is concerning to many people. However, if history is our guide, we do know that even if a vaccine doesn’t target a specific variant, the strong immune response you get from being fully vaccinated can still be highly protective against severe disease from all COVID-19 variants,” he said.

"It was only a matter of time before we identified the first case of the Omicron variant in Oregon," said Governor Kate Brown. "As we continue to learn more about this new variant, we know the measures that are most effective in helping to keep ourselves and our families safe from Omicron, Delta, and other COVID-19 variants: get vaccinated, get your booster, and wear a mask. That's the key to saving lives and keeping our businesses, schools, and communities open. If you aren't yet vaccinated or need a booster dose, get an appointment or find a walk-in vaccine clinic in your area today."

Sidelinger said OHA and its laboratory partners will continue to monitor the spread of Omicron in Oregon with robust individual-level and community-level variant surveillance.

"As part of Oregon Health & Science University’s ongoing SARS-CoV-2 testing efforts, OHSU genomic sequencing has confirmed Oregon’s first three cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. OHSU PCR analysis initially flagged three samples as potential cases late last week after PCR analysis showed they had a feature known as the S-gene dropout. While not specific for the variant, the S-gene dropout is a potential indicator. Full genomic sequencing was completed this afternoon and confirmed the cases involve the Omicron variant," said Donna Hansel, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the OHSU Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, which detected the three cases.

Oregon ranks 11th nationwide in the proportion of all specimens sequenced during the pandemic. Those efforts include sequencing of positive COVID-19 specimens at the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory, through academic laboratories, including those at Oregon Health & Science University and University of Oregon, and at several commercial laboratories statewide; and sequencing of wastewater samples in more than 40 communities statewide through a collaboration with Oregon State University’s TRACE program.

Sidelinger added that “it can’t be emphasized enough that vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19 infection and transmission, including most circulating variants,” along with other protective measures, including wearing masks indoors and in crowded outdoor settings, physically distancing from others, washing hands regularly and staying home when sick.


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