Tulare County Public Health has confirmed the first cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in three samples collected recently from Tulare County residents. The samples demonstrated a pattern called “S-gene drop-out” on the PCR test sample for COVID-19. The Tulare County Public Health Laboratory has a preliminary screening test to identify potential Omicron cases, after which they must be verified through full genomic sequencing. Currently, Tulare County has three officially confirmed cases that have been verified through full genomic sequencing; two were detected through surveillance conducted by the TCPHL and a third case was identified through sequencing by an outside laboratory. However, there are many more samples that have been identified on the preliminary screening test this week as potential Omicron cases. It will take several days to confirm these results, but internal data suggest they are likely also Omicron cases.
This week’s surveillance activities have identified rapid spread of Omicron throughout Tulare County in just the last few days. This rapid spread is consistent with what has been seen in other parts of California and the nation. “As we suspected, the Omicron variant is present and circulating in Tulare County. This new variant is very contagious and infectious, which is why it is extremely important we continue all safety measures to prevent becoming infected with COVID-19,” stated Dr. Karen Haught, Tulare County Public Health Officer. “It is especially important for everyone to get vaccinated, get a booster vaccine, and wear a well-fitting face covering or mask while in any public, indoor setting.”
Getting vaccinated and boosted is most important, as data show that vaccines remain one of the most powerful protections against COVID-19 transmission, and we know many will be traveling and gathering with others for the holidays. The vaccines are effective against the Delta variant and earlier strains of the virus, which allows us to remain hopeful that the approved vaccines will also provide some protection against Omicron. Visit the Tulare County COVID-19 Vaccine webpage at: https://covid19.tularecounty.ca.gov/covid-19-vaccine/ for vaccination locations, including a full listing of health care providers and local pharmacies offering COVID-19 vaccinations. Those seeking to get vaccinated can also visit MyTurn.ca.gov and schedule an appointment.
With continued substantial transmission and a highly infectious new variant, all Tulare County residents should continue adhering to the masking requirements and wear a well-fitting mask that securely covers the nose and mouth when indoors in public places, regardless of vaccination status. Individuals should also wear a mask when at any crowded indoor or outdoor events, public or private.
Testing is an important tool in early detection of infection to reduce spread, and Tulare County Public Health encourages residents who have traveled for the holidays and everyone who participated in holiday gatherings or events to get tested for COVID-19. Residents are reminded that they are required to isolate if they have a positive COVID test result, regardless of vaccination status, and if they have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID, they should quarantine themselves and get tested.
It is very important for individuals who tested positive and those who have been in close contact with a COVID-positive case to refrain from attending any gathering so as not to expose others. Anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status or exposure, should also get tested for the virus.