KENT COUNTY, Mich. – Michigan health officials have identified the state’s first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant in Kent County.
This case of COVID was originally detected Dec. 3, and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Thursday through genetic sequencing that it was the omicron variant.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is working with the Kent County Health Department to investigate the case, including the possibility of out-of-state exposure and identifying close contacts.
“The identification of the omicron variant is not unexpected,” Kent County Health Department Director Dr. Adam London said. “We are fortunate that we have effective, safe and available vaccines that can protect us from this illness. We continue to urge people to get their vaccine and to get their boosters as soon as they are eligible.”
Vaccine records indicate the Kent County adult was fully vaccinated but had not received a booster dose.
“We are concerned, although not surprised, about the discovery of the omicron variant in Michigan,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said. “We continue to urge Michiganders ages 5 and up to get vaccinated and continue participating in measures we know slow the spread of the virus by wearing well-fitting masks properly, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, washing their hands often and testing for COVID-19. Vaccines are our best defense against the virus and how we can manage the spread of COVID-19.”
The Omicron variant, B.1.1.529, was classified as a variant of concern by the CDC on Nov. 30. Variants are classified as variants of concern if they show evidence of being more contagious, causing more severe illness or resistance to diagnostics, treatments or vaccines.
“We have tools that prevent the spread of COVID-19, including omicron,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive. “However, we continue to see that those not utilizing these tools, including vaccines, are disproportionately affected by this virus.”
The omicron variant was first detected on Nov. 11 in South Africa, and the first case was confirmed in the United States on Dec. 1. Michigan joins the list of more than 20 other states with confirmed Omicron detections.
According to the CDC, the omicron variant will likely spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. How easily omicron spreads compared to the delta variant remains unknown.