The first case of the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus was reported in Georgia over the weekend, as the newest strain of the coronavirus has now been found in more than a dozen states.
The Georgia Department of Public Health said the infected individual recently traveled from South Africa. He developed mild symptoms and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 with the omicron variant. The individual is isolating at home and contact tracing is underway to identify close contacts at risk of infection, according to the DPH.
The delta variant still accounts for practically all infections in the U.S., and a rise in cases in recent weeks has swamped hospitals, especially in the Midwest and New England.
While the average number of daily cases in Georgia and across the nation is up 20 percent in the past two weeks, newly reported cases in Bulloch County have remained fairly stable. According to the DPH, Bulloch County saw 25 new cases in the past week.
Georgia is seeing about 970 new COVID cases every day. The CDC reports nearly 110,000 new cases are recorded daily across the US as of Monday and nearly 1,200 people die each day due to the virus.
The Department of Health said COVID was responsible for four probable deaths and one confirmed death since Nov. 30 in Bulloch. The county total now stands at 100 confirmed and 122 probable deaths for a total of 222. There have been 98 deaths due to COVID, 44% of the total, since Aug. 10 — 38 confirmed and 60 probable.
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.”
While this is the first in-state Georgia case tracked to the variant, the Department of Public Health said it was notified Friday of a Georgia resident who was in New Jersey and tested positive for the omicron variant there.
All Georgians over the age of 5 are 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.
For the fourth week in a row, East Georgia Regional Medical Center reported on Monday that no patients being treated for the virus needed a ventilator.
Ted Wynn, director of the Bulloch Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency, reported three COVID patients were hospitalized at East Georgia, but no one was on a ventilator.
Returning from Thanksgiving break, Georgia Southern University reported three confirmed new COVID cases and 19 self-reported across the Statesboro and Armstrong campuses for the week of Nov. 29-Dec. 5.
Bulloch County Schools
Returning from its Thanksgiving break, Bulloch County schools reported six new cases for the week of Nov. 28-Dec. 4.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.