Health officials: 4 cases of omicron variant detected in DC

D.C. health officials have detected four cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant.

The D.C. Health Department said Sunday afternoon that each of the four cases had no known connection to one another. It marked the first time the novel strain — first detected in South Africa and in the weeks since, across the globe — has been confirmed in the nation’s capital, after recent cases in Maryland and Virginia.

District officials said all four infected had been fully-vaccinated; one was eligible for a booster but had not yet received it, while it was unclear whether the remaining three had received a booster.

One of the four infected is a woman who had traveled to Florida and New York. A second and third case had traveled to Virginia and Maryland for the Thanksgiving holiday, while a fourth case had no recent travel history.

The city health department said all close contacts of the individuals have been contacted.

A news release from the city announcing the cases stressed the importance of getting vaccinated amid the spread of the variant. D.C. also said that residents should continue to practice disease prevention strategies such as masking, hand washing and physical distancing from others.

Anyone 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated in the District. Those over 16 who received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine on or before June 12, 2021, or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on or before Oct. 12, 2021, are eligible for a booster dose.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said that while two doses may not be strong enough to prevent infection, lab tests showed a booster increased by 25-fold people’s levels of antibodies capable of fighting off omicron. Vaccine makers already are tweaking their vaccine recipes to create an omicron-specific dose in case it’s needed.

Scientists don’t yet know how big a threat the omicron variant really is. Currently the extra-contagious delta variant is responsible for most of the COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and other countries.

Data from D.C. region state health agencies show COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations rising since mid to late November, reversing a downward trend from over the summer, though it is unclear how much of the uptick can be attributed to the new strain. Publicly-available data from Maryland remain disrupted following a ransomware attack on state servers.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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