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Cleveland Clinic detects omicron COVID-19 variant in laboratory sample

Ohio's first cases of the omicron variant were announced on Saturday.

CLEVELAND — The omicron variant of COVID-19 has arrived in Northeast Ohio.

On Monday, Cleveland Clinic reported that it had detected the omicron variant in its laboratory.

"We routinely sequence positive specimens each week and share that information with the Ohio Department of Health. This sampling of positive specimens enables us to identify and track SARS-CoV-2 variants that are circulating in the community," the Clinic told 3News in a statement. "We continue to urge our community to receive their COVID-19 vaccination, as this continues to be the best protection against severe illness and death from COVID-19."

The announcement from Cleveland Clinic comes just two days after the Ohio Department of Health reported the state's first cases. The omicron variant was confirmed in the Buckeye State following genomic sequencing by the Ohio State University Laboratory. 

“We have known that it would only be a matter of time until a case of Omicron was detected in Ohio. The CDC believes that this variant has likely been circulating in the U.S. since November,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff, MD, MBA. “This variant’s arrival and the continued impact of the Delta variant underscore the importance of our best prevention tool, which is choosing to be vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines, coupled with prevention measures, provide the greatest protection from severe illness resulting in hospitalization or death. If you have not yet been vaccinated, or are eligible for a booster dose, now is the time to go and get your shot.”

The first two omicron cases were detected in adult males in Central Ohio, and both tested positive on a PCR test on Dec. 7. Both cases had received their initial COVID-19 vaccine series more than six months ago, but neither had yet obtained a booster. Both patients are currently experiencing mild symptoms and have not been hospitalized. Neither had a history of international travel. Although more information is being gathered, to protect patient privacy, exact age and county of residence are not being released at this time. Public health officials have already contacted the individuals are in the process of appropriate case investigation and contact tracing.

“While we will continue to learn more about Omicron in the days to come, early reports from South Africa suggest Omicron may be more contagious and more likely to reinfect people. Naturally, there has been concern regarding whether vaccines would remain protective. The results of the early research regarding vaccines are encouraging, reinforcing the benefits of primary vaccination and timely boosters," Dr. Vanderhoff added.

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