Omicron variant detected in Georgia


New variant reinforces the need for vaccination and testing, DPH says; Fayette still under 3% in new infections — 

Atlanta — The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has confirmed the first case of Covid-19 caused by the omicron variant in Georgia.

The individual recently traveled from South Africa and developed mild symptoms and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19. Genomic sequencing confirmed the presence of the omicron variant. The individual is isolating at home and contact tracing is underway to identify close contacts at risk of infection.

This is the first identified in-state case of omicron. DPH was notified Dec. 3 of a Georgia resident currently in New Jersey who tested positive for the omicron variant.

Scientists continue to study the omicron variant to determine how quickly and easily it spreads, whether it causes more severe illness and how well the current Covid vaccines protect against it.

“Vaccination is key to preventing further transmission of Covid-19 and helps prevent new variants like omicron from emerging,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “It also is important to remember that even as omicron is emerging, we are still in the midst of a pandemic currently being fueled by the delta variant.”

All Georgians over the age of 5 are now eligible for Covid vaccination. Booster doses of vaccine are recommended for adults 18 and older who completed their first series of vaccine at least six months ago. The CDC also recommends general prevention measures such as wearing a mask in public settings, staying 6 feet from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and frequently washing your hands to protect against Covid-19.

Individuals who have symptoms of Covid-19 or who may have been exposed to someone with Covid should get tested.

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DPH will continue to monitor omicron developments and provide updates as new information becomes available.

Meanwhile, the “old” version of Covid-19 continues at a low level in both Fayette County schools and in the county at large. While still low, compared to the most recent surge — which peaked in late August and early September at around a 7-day moving everage of just under 65 new cases a day in Fayette — new case percentages are rising slowly.

The 2-week rate of new tested infections has risen from under 2% just before Thanksgiving to just under 3% this past Friday, Dec. 3, according to the data from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The county reported 42 new cases among county residents last week, as well as only one Covid-caused fatality in the same time period. In that week, 13 persons were admitted for hospital treatment for Covid.

With mandatory masking having been shifted to voluntary face covering in all Fayette County public schools more than a month ago, Covid cases remain stable at under 15 new cases last week.

The count was 12 new student cases and no new staff infections, according the the weekly system Covid report. There were 15 students and 1 staff member in modified quarantine at the schools due to exposures to confirmed infections and 1 student in home quarantine, the report showed.