Washoe County health officials today said the impact of the omicron COVID-19 variant remains unknown. Omicron was found today in the U.S.–in California–for the first time.
The California case was travel related.
“The individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22, 2021,” a press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted. “The individual, who was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving, is self-quarantining and has been since testing positive. All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative.”
Initial data suggest the variant is more transmissible than the delta variant but less likely to lead to hospitalization, District Health Officer Kevin Dick said today.
No omicron cases in Washoe have been detected but they are expected.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw tomorrow…or three weeks from now,” Dick said. “It does appear to be extremely transmissive. It’s a cause for concern and certainly something that we’re paying attention to.”
Dick continued to recommend people get vaccinated. Deaths and new cases continue to be on the decline–however, Dick said travel and holiday gatherings could change downward trends the region is now seeing.
“Getting vaccinated and getting the booster when appropriate, is going to provide the best protection against COVID-19,” he added. “The thinking is that since the vaccines have been designed to produce antibodies that are protective against the spike protein … they still should be providing protection against omicron.”
The region is still in the high range for COVID-19 transmission, which means restrictions such as mask-wearing remain in place.
The health officer also said people continue to spread misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
“We have quite a divided country as far as people supporting and understanding the importance of the vaccine,” Dick added.
Governor adjusts directive for youth
Gov. Steve Sisolak yesterday changed his directive for large gatherings. The change gives flexibility to allow event operators to admit attendees under the age of 12, regardless of vaccination status, he said in a media statement.
“Event operators may grant access to attendees aged 11 and under who are not vaccinated but will still require … attendees to wear a face covering during the event regardless of whether they would otherwise be exempt from the face covering requirement due to age,” Sisolak said.
Children under 12 who have proof of full vaccination are not required to wear masks at events.