Omicron may already be present on Whidbey, according to health officer

The newest variant, omicron, was first detected in Thurston, Pierce and King counties on Dec. 4.

Although the omicron variant of COVID-19 has not been officially detected in Island County yet, public health officials feel that it is only a matter of time.

The newest variant, omicron, was first detected in Thurston, Pierce and King counties on Dec. 4. It was reported in Whatcom County Dec. 10.The variant is identified through PCR testing and genome sequencing, which can take up to a few weeks.

According to Dr. Howard Leibrand, the county’s public health officer, it’s likely omicron may already have a foothold on Whidbey.

“You can assume that even though we haven’t measured it in Island County, it’s there,” he said Monday. “By this weekend it will account for 10 to 20 percent of those cases there. We won’t know it at a technical level, but we’ll know it at a gut level.”

Virologists at the University of Washington have been noticing a logarithmic pattern in antigen tests that may be indicative of the new variant.

“What that’s telling us is the majority of our cases will be omicron by the time two weeks goes by,” Leibrand said.

He advised getting a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

“Anybody who isn’t fully boosted will likely get this, and those who have previous natural disease will also get it,” he said. “Those who are fully boosted will get it less likely and with less severity.”

He joked that people who are getting lax with their virus precautions are confusing omicron with “omega,” or the end of the pandemic.

“It will be just as severe as delta, only higher rates,” he said of omicron. “We’re not done with this pandemic.”

As of press time, data obtained from a Dec. 1 state Department of Health report showed that the delta variant was detected the most in Island County out of all variants of interest. Reports on variants are released every other Wednesday.

In Island County, the 14-day case rate from Nov. 25 to Dec. 8 was 159 per 100,000 people. Compared to the two prior 14-day case rate periods, this is a slight decrease.

Between Dec. 2 and Dec. 9, 90 new cases of COVID-19 were reported.

As of Dec. 6, 63.2% of the eligible population in Island County, ages 12 and up, has been fully vaccinated.