The Delaware Division of Public Health has found first four cases of the Omicron variant among Delaware residents, it announced Friday.
The four cases involve two adults in their 30s, a teenager and a child under the age of 10, all residents of New Castle County. Two individuals were fully vaccinated and two were unvaccinated. None of the individuals had a known history of travel.
Those close to the people who were infected are being monitored in an attempt to slow the spread of the much more infectious form of COVID-19.
Across the country, health officials have warned there will be tsunami of cases coming because the variant, first discovered in Africa, is so infectious. It already has been discovered in surrounding states and the number of cases in New York and New Jersey are multiplying quickly.
Also Friday, the Division of Public Health reported 1,079 new cases of COVID, with 359 people in the hospital and 42 in critical condition.
The day before, Thursday, Dec. 16, it had reported 677 new cases.
The state usually measures COVID stats from Friday through Thursday each week to compare with the week before.
For the week ending Thursday, the average number of daily new cases was 677, up from 596.6 the week before. The seven-day average for percentage of positive tests was 9.8%, up from 9.3% the week before.
On Friday, the percentage of new positive cases was 38.2.
Hospitalizations during the week were up by 42 and critical cases by 9.
During the week, 23 new deaths were recorded, bringing the total to 2,234.
The New Castle County Omicron cases were detected through random routine genomic sequencing of test specimens that are done by the Delaware Public Health Laboratory.
Genome sequencing is a public health surveillance tool used to monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 variants; it is not used to diagnose individuals with a specific strain of COVID-19, as treatment recommendations do not differ based on variant strains.
COVID-19 tests will say whether you have a COVID-19 infection, but not which variant of the virus the individual might have.
“With cases of the Omicron variant detected in our surrounding states, it was only a matter of time until we detected this variant in Delaware,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, Public Health director.
She noted that many people who have it have reported milder symptoms than other strains have caused.
“We still have a lot more to learn about Omicron,” she said. “Therefore, we need to do what we know works to combat all strains of COVID-19: get vaccinated, get tested when appropriate, wear a mask in indoor public settings, socially distance from others and wash your hands regularly.”
The state expects an increase in testing demand for testing in the new several weeks because of the holiday and the new Omicron cases, but it hasn’t seen statewide testing being affected.
“However, in general, we are not seeing major issues meeting testing demand currently, given there are multiple testing options in Delaware,” said Jennifer Brestel, a Public Health spokeswoman.
Those options included Curative testing trailers, state service centers and freestanding clinics — Canby Park, University Plaza, Blue Hen and Georgetown Plaza, state-sponsored Walgreens testing sites, other retail pharmacies, health care clinics, and the school testing program, she said.
In addition, she said several over-the counter at-home tests are available from a variety of locations such as Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and Amazon.
“We expect supply of those tests to increase as well,” she said.
Different supply chains and labs are being used so individual sites may be temporarily impacted.
The state continue to monitor the demand for testing and make adjustments as needed to ensure continued access for Delaware residents, she said.
Booster shots are helping the vaccinated, she said.
Early results from both Pfizer and Moderna are pointing to booster doses being much more effective against the Omicron variant than having two doses alone. However, Pfizer is showing up to 70% effectiveness against serious illness leading to hospitalization after just two doses of the vaccine.
DPH has seen surge of new positive cases over the past month, and Delta remains the dominant strain circulating in Delaware and the United States.
Cases and hospitalizations are occurring predominantly among those who are unvaccinated, she said.
“Vaccines remain the most critical tool to protect us against severe disease,” she said.
All adults who completed a primary vaccination series with an mRNA vaccine at least six months ago and those who received a Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago are eligible for a booster. For more information, go to de.gov/boosters. For more information about how to get vaccines, go to de.gov/getmyvaccine
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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