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The omicron variant is officially confirmed in Ohio

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) announced that the COVID-19 variant called omicron is in Ohio.

“We have known that it would only be a matter of time until a case of omicron was detected in Ohio," said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, ODH director on Saturday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that this variant has likely been circulating in the U.S. since November, Dr. Vanderhoff said in a news release.

The first two cases of the variant were in vaccinated men who had tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 7, according to ODH. They had received the vaccine more than six months ago, but neither had received a booster shot. Neither had traveled internationally recently. 

Both patients are experiencing mild symptoms and have not been hospitalized, Vanderhoff said. 

The variant, also labeled as B.1.1.529, was found using genomic sequencing by The Ohio State University Laboratory, ODH officials announced. 

"The Ohio State University Laboratory is sequencing all positive PCR tests, and during the past three weeks, has sequenced about 1,000 positive PCR tests. These two positive tests reflect about 0.2% of all tests sequenced at the OSU lab, the remainder of which were delta," ODH officials announced in a press release. 

While the news of the omicron variant is noteworthy, Vanderhoff said, it's the delta variant that is driving cases and hospitalizations. 

Early reports of the omicron variant show it's more contagious and more likely to reinfect people, Vanderhoff said.

Vaccinations are still an effective prevention tool, he said, although there has been some concern over whether vaccines can protect against this variant. 

"COVID-19 vaccines, coupled with prevention measures, provide the greatest protection from severe illness resulting in hospitalization or death," Vanderhoff said. "If you have not yet been vaccinated, or are eligible for a booster dose, now is the time to go and get your shot.” 

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