Eighteen countries have already confirmed cases of the “omicron” covid-19 variant. Although there have been no reported cases in the U.S. yet, a Washington State Hospital Association executive says there is no chance that the variant isn’t already in the country.
“I think all of our panelists and I agree wholeheartedly that Omicron is in the U.S.,” said State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said while hosting a live stream panel discussion on Nov. 29. “I think there’s almost no chance that it’s not.”
The new covid-19 variant of concern was first identified in South Africa, King 5-TV reported.
During the panel discussion, Washington health officials provided an update on the state’s covid-19 response and the status of Washington’s health care system. Dr. Alex Greninger, assistant professor in the laboratory medicine and pathology department at the UW School of Medicine and assistant director of the Clinical Virology Laboratories at the University of Washington Medical Center, joined the briefing to discuss screening for the covid-19 omicron variant.
Washington is among the top 10 states for screening for the variant in the U.S., according to Greninger.
“There is really no evidence that we’re not going to be able to detect this variant,” said Greninger. “I think with all the other variants, there really has been very little effect on the testing performance.”
Because of the unique qualities of the omicron, Greninger said it would be easy to identify.
“So, from a testing standpoint, we’re going to be able to detect [the omicron variant],” said Greninger.
Greninger added, “There really are almost no other strains, or deltas, that have this deletion, so now [the tests] are highly specific for omicron.”
Even the rapid screening of all positive covid-19 tests in Washington looks for the “hallmark” of the omicron variant.
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According to Sauer, while hospitalizations are continuing to decrease in Washington, all efforts to fight off the Delta variant could be lost if the Omicron variant causes a new spread of the virus, KPQ News Radio reported.
“(We need to) really work hard on vaccines and vaccine boosters,” said Greg Repetti, President of MultiCare Deaconess and Valley Hospital in Spokane, during the panel discussion. “I mean, let’s face it, eastern Washington lagged western Washington and continues to lag western Washington in vaccination.”