Health officials: Omicron variant identified in 5 Michigan counties

State reports 6 known cases of COVID variant so far

Sandile Cele, a researcher at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, works on the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus Wednesday Dec. 15, 2021. An analysis of data from South Africa, where the new variant is driving a surge in infections, suggests the Pfizer vaccine offers less defense against infection from omicron and reduced, but still good, protection from hospitalization. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (Jerome Delay, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The latest COVID-19 variant omicron has now been identified in five counties across the state of Michigan, officials said Friday.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), a total of six confirmed omicron cases have been detected in the state as of Friday, Dec. 17.

The following Michigan counties are reporting the following number of omicron cases:

  • Genesee County: 2 omicron cases
  • Kent County: 1 omicron case
  • Oakland County: 1 omicron case
  • Washtenaw County: 1 omicron case
  • Wayne County: 1 omicron case

Prior to Friday, only one known omicron case was reported in Michigan, in Kent County.

While the current omicron numbers are low in Michigan, it is likely that there are more infections caused by the COVID variant throughout Michigan and the U.S. that have not been identified. On Tuesday, MDHHS reported that a total of 29 states and U.S. territories have detected omicron infections so far.

The latest coronavirus variant has sparked some concern across the globe. Experts say the make up of the omicron variant appears different from previous COVID-19 strains, prompting uncertainty over its impact and if existing vaccines would be effective against it. Health experts say that data so far shows that the omicron variant is more transmissible than previous strains, but may cause less severe disease.

More: 8 Michigan COVID takeaways: Omicron, fourth surge, ‘deeply concerning direction’

Officials say that existing COVID-19 vaccines do offer protection from the latest variant, but that a booster shot is critical to increase that protection. Some drugmakers have begun to reimagine existing COVID vaccines to better fit the omicron variant.

More: Pfizer jabs protect 70% against hospitalization from omicron

Experts believe the omicron variant will become the dominant COVID-19 variant in the U.S. by next year.

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.