Omicron variant lends to renewed push for vaccinations in county

Tulare County public health officials detect the COVID-19 omicron variant in the county, continue to press for vaccinations and boosters

TULARE COUNTY – The presence of the omicron variant for COVID-19 in Tulare County has given the local public health agency a renewed reemphasis on the importance of vaccines and boosters.

“Considering the national trend, we’ve been aware of the variants being present in our state, as well as surrounding counties,” Tulare County public health officer Dr. Karen Haught said. “We need to continue the important safety measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, and it is especially important for everyone to get vaccinated, get their booster vaccines, and wear a face covering or mask while in any public indoor setting.”

Tulare County public health identified the first potential cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant in two samples collected from Tulare County residents last week. The samples demonstrated a pattern called “S-gene drop-out” on the Thermofisher TaqPath PCR test for COVID-19. It will take several days to confirm these results using genomic sequencing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control the omicron variant likely spreads more easily than the original COVID-19 virus, and more easily than the delta variants that ravaged unvaccinated parts of the country over the summer. The severity of illnesses is not yet clear, but the CDC is consistently encouraging people to take advantage of the current vaccine as they expect it to also protect against this variant.

The Tulare County Public Health Department noted in a press release that getting vaccinated and boosted is most important, as data show that vaccines remain one of the most powerful protections against COVID-19 transmission, and “we know many will be traveling and gathering with others for the holidays.” The vaccines are effective against the delta variant and earlier strains of the virus, which allows the public health department to remain hopeful that the approved vaccines will also provide some protection against omicron. Visit the Tulare County COVID-19 Vaccine web page at: covid19.tularecounty.ca.gov/covid-19-vaccine for vaccination locations, including a full listing of health care providers and local pharmacies offering COVID-19 vaccinations. Those seeking to get vaccinated can also visit MyTurn.ca.gov and schedule an appointment.

With continued substantial transmission and a highly infectious new variant, all Tulare County residents should continue adhering to the masking requirements and wear a mask when indoors in public places, regardless of vaccination status. Individuals should also wear a mask when at any crowded indoor or outdoor events.

Testing is an important tool in early detection of infection to reduce spread, and Tulare County public health encourages residents who have traveled for the holidays and everyone who participated in holiday gatherings or events to get tested for COVID-19. Residents are reminded that they are required to isolate and quarantine if they have a positive COVID test result, and if they have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID, regardless of vaccination status, they should also quarantine themselves and get tested. It is very important for individuals who tested positive and those who have been in close contact with a COVID-positive case to refrain from attending any gathering so as not to expose others. Anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status or exposure, should also get tested for COVID-19.

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