COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state’s department of health director is urging people who test positive for COVID-19 to also take a PCR test if they haven’t already. The request is part of the state’s effort to track the new variant of concern known as omicron.
According to ODH, delta remains the dominant variant in Ohio. Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said the PCR test will be helpful in tracking the variant because it can go through genomic sequencing to test for the variant. At-home rapid tests cannot go through this sequencing.
Genomic sequencing is used at Ohio labs to detect variants of concern that are assigned a Greek name as well as other variants.
When it comes to the new omicron variant, Dr. Vanderhoff says much remains unknown. He said early reports say that it produces mild illness. He said we expect to know more in the coming weeks.
He said we are seeing the highest level of COVID hospitalizations since January.
“Sadly, we continue to see an uptick in cases and hospitalizations,” said Dr. Vanderhoff.
“All the way back on January 12, was the last time we saw this many hospitalizations,” he said.
He said currently we are seeing the highest numbers in the northeast part of the state. Younger Ohioans between 23-49 years old have a case rate 25% higher than the statewide average.
Dr. Andy Thomas of OSU Wexner Medical Center also spoke at Wednesday’s briefing. He is the hospital zone 2 lead which includes 40 hospitals in central Ohio and surrounding areas. He said staffing is a major limitation at hospitals across the state.
He stressed the importance of getting vaccinated because it lowers your risk of infection and most importantly it prevents you from needing the hospital for covid complications.
On Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Health reported more than 9,000 COVID cases in the state with more than 360 new hospitalizations.
Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, President Biden presented his plan to combat the virus this winter.
The plan includes stricter travel restrictions for people arriving to the United States and free testing for at-home kits, covered by private insurance. The plan also extends public transit mask requirements and expands access to boosters and vaccines for kids as well.
Where is omicron in the U.S.? According to the CDC, another person has gotten sick by the Omicron variant. That person is a resident of Minnesota and traveled to New York City and attended an Anime convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19 – 21.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky released the following statement Wednesday:
“CDC has been actively monitoring and preparing for this variant. We have been working closely with Minnesota’s Department of Health and will continue to work diligently with other U.S. and global public health and industry partners as we learn more. CDC has expanded its capacity for genomic sequencing over the past nine months and we have more tools to fight the variant than we had at this time last year from vaccines to boosters to the prevention strategies that we know work including masking in indoor public settings, washing your hands frequently and physical distancing. These methods work to prevent the spread of COVID-19, no matter the genetic sequence.”