Douglas County confirms 10 omicron variant cases

Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 4:42 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Douglas County Health Department on Tuesday reported that 10 cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant had been confirmed in local residents ages 5 to 56.

The latest variant has been shown to spread more easily than other variants, but it is not yet known how common severe illness, hospitalization, and death are with omicron compared to other variants, the health department said in its release Tuesday.

Dr. Huse said in a zoom conference Tuesday afternoon that the health department is working to contact the infected individuals to further investigate their cases, determining whether they were symptomatic or not, where they may have contracted the virus, and whether they were vaccinated. She said officials didn’t think the cases originated from travel.

She said health officials have been increasing efforts to determine whether omicron was present locally, but that the 10 cases were reported all at once only because sequencing positive specimens takes several days.

Meanwhile, Dr. Huse advised residents to continue using the proven preventative measures: hand-washing, wearing masks, social distancing, and good handwashing habits. She also encouraged vaccination and for those who are eligible to get their booster vaccination — and for them to wear masks as well.

Dr. Huse said she has been talking with state and city officials about a mask mandate, noting that masks are an important tool to slow the spread of the contagious new variant and spare local hospitals, which are already struggling with high capacity levels.

The health director said she encouraged those who were planning to spend time with family and friends in the coming weeks for the holidays to consider whether the people they’re spending time with have been vaccinated or have recently tested negative for the virus.

“I think people are going to gather, and so it’s important that we give them all of the information and the tools to make those decisions safely,” Dr. Huse said.

Given the number of rising cases in the U.S., confirmation of the local presence of the variant seemed inevitable.

“We are not surprised to see omicron in Douglas County and have been planning for it,” Dr. Huse said in the release. “If you haven’t gotten your vaccine or booster yet, please do so now. Also, please keep wearing a mask in public places, practice distancing as much as possible, and stay home when you are sick. Our community can slow the spread of this if we all pitch in and do our part.”

Watch Tuesday’s news conference

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