Omicron variant hits U.S.; Kansas health officials weigh in

Local News

TOPEKA (KSNT) – The White House confirmed Wednesday the Omicron variant is now in the U.S.

The person is a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive on Nov. 29. The individual was vaccinated but had not received a booster shot.

Local health officials are continuing to encourage the community to use vaccines, masking and social distancing to protect themselves.

Derik Flerlage with the Shawnee County Health Department said with more gatherings heading into the holidays, there’s been a steady increase in COVID-19 cases the last few weeks.

“With additional spread, becomes additional chances for more variants to pop up and so it’s really no surprise that we’re seeing variants occur,” Flerlage said. “They’re just a random happening in nature.”

Governor Laura Kelly said she expects Omicron will make its way to Kansas but is waiting for more to be known about the new variant.

“I’m sort of waiting for some more reports to come out from our usual suspects and trusted advisors because it has been a little unclear whether this is less virulent than the Delta or more,” Kelly said.

Flerlage said both the state and county health departments are ready for new variants to appear.

“There’s something called sequencing and that’s where they look at the blueprint of the virus if they detect the virus on a test and that’s how they find the variant,” Flerlage said. “And it’s not just omicron but all of the other variants that have occurred before it.”

According to Flerlage, it doesn’t matter what variant is out there; vaccines, masking and social distancing are all mitigation strategies that are effective in slowing down the spread of COVID.

He encourages the community to get tested before attending holiday gatherings and other social settings.

You can find the resources to do so here.

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