The omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in two Clark County cases, one of whom is linked to outbreaks among wrestling teams.
The omicron variant was first detected in Washington state earlier this month. As of Wednesday, the state Department of Health had identified more than a dozen cases of the variant, including at least three cases associated with wrestling outbreaks occurring across the state. The Department of Health notified Clark County Public Health of the local omicron cases this weekend.
Molecular and antigen COVID-19 tests detect infections of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including infections from variants of the virus. But to determine which variant is causing the infection, specimens must be sent to a laboratory for genomic sequencing.
Not all specimens are submitted for sequencing so the number of omicron cases in Clark County and Washington state is likely much higher. The University of Washington Virology Lab estimates that more than 50% of specimens submitted for sequencing have genetic markers associated with omicron and are likely omicron cases.
Both omicron cases in Clark County are among people who are fully vaccinated. While breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are occurring, the COVID-19 vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the omicron variant.
Preliminary evidence suggests people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected more easily with omicron. And early data suggests some monoclonal antibody treatments may not be as effective against infection with the omicron variant.
The emergence of the omicron variant highlights the importance of getting vaccinated and, when eligible, getting a COVID-19 booster dose.
“COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide the best protection against infection from the omicron variant and others,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director. “I urge anyone who is not yet vaccinated or who hasn’t received their booster dose to do so as soon as possible.”
Everyone 5 years and older is eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Those 16 and older are eligible for booster doses:
- Six months after completing the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna series
- Two months after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine
In addition to getting vaccinated, Clark County residents should continue to take steps to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19 – wear face coverings, avoid crowded indoor spaces, increase ventilation when gathering indoors, and stay home when sick. The presence of the omicron variant, which early data suggests may be more contagious than the delta variant, makes these measures especially important as families gather for the holidays.
“Taking these precautions will help make holiday gatherings safer for you and your loved ones,” Melnick said.
Public Health continues to work with local school districts to investigate COVID-19 cases among athletes and coaches on local wrestling teams.
As of Monday morning, Public Health has identified 34 cases among athletes and coaches at six Clark County schools. Public Health has identified seven wrestling events associated with these cases. The events occurred in Clark County and elsewhere in the state in the last two weeks.
These numbers are preliminary; the investigations are ongoing.
Source: Clark County Health Department