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As COVID-19 surges, emphasis on testing, vaccinations more pronounced than ever

As Ohio reports a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases, tests seem to be getting harder to find.

CLEVELAND — Nearly 16,000 new cases in Ohio at a time when thousands are trying to be tested. Rapid tests are hard to find, and appointments are filled everywhere, including the state's drive-thru testing site.

Now operating under new appointment policies, with no room for walk-ins, the Walker Community COVID-19 testing site seemed to be running much smoother on Thursday, with no lines to be found. It will be open again next week, and you can find information about making an appointment HERE.

Nearby at Cleveland Clinic, the average positivity rate is now 39 percent - the highest they've seen so far.

“I'm not sure when we're going to peak and then start going down the other side of that slope,” said Dr. Daniel Rhoads, section head of microbiology for Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Rhoads said the Clinic’s preliminary analysis shows omicron is increasing its hold. And researchers noted an uncommon mutation in the omicron variant we're seeing locally.

“It has a, a R346K mutation in the spike protein, which has been reported some places, but it is infrequently reported,” said Dr. Rhoads. “Hopefully after we get some data from this recent sequencing run, we'll see how prevalent it really is. And, you know, that might be a hypothesis as to why, uh, Cuyahoga [County] is such a hotspot.”

A Clinic spokesperson said today they are still analyzing data from the sequencing run completed Wednesday. “Preliminary analysis confirms that omicron is continuing to increase,” said Halle Bishop, in an email. 

Meanwhile, Case Western researchers are sharing a new interactive tool just launched with the Cleveland Department of Public Health to track new daily COVID-19 cases in the city -- down to the zip code.

“We wanted to give Cleveland a more granular look,” said Pete Zimmerman, CWRU professor of Pathology. "People are curious about what their risk is. You are, I am, everybody [is], particularly now when we're experiencing a really large surge in, in COVID cases.”

And that’s before the gatherings begin. Vaccination, testing with rapid results, masking and social distancing are smart for the safest get-togethers. Larger parties? White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci says no. 

“There are many of these -- parties that have 30, 40, 50 people in which you do not know the vaccination status of individuals,” said Dr. Fauci during a Wednesday White House briefing. “Those are the kind of functions — in the context of COVID and particularly in the context of omicron — that you do not want to go to.”

As omicron's symptoms come into focus – it’s cough, fatigue and congestion that are the most common. Losing taste or smell is NOT common.

With the positivity rate where it is locally, if you notice symptoms before you can be tested, assume it is COVID.

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