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Omicron variant not yet found in Cole County, health official says

by Jeff Haldiman | December 22, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

While the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has been found in sewersheds in Jackson and Buchanan counties in western Missouri, it has not been found yet in Cole County, according to local health officials.

Health officials test domestic wastewater for genetic markers of SARS, the virus that causes COVID-19. Studies have found a direct correlation between the amount of SARS genetic material in sewage and the number of reported cases within a given "sewershed," or the area that drains into a community's wastewater collection system.

Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell told the Cole County Commission on Tuesday that they continue to see the delta variant of the virus in the Cole County sewershed, not the omicron variant.

She also offered an assessment of the new variant.

"Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine is 0-20 percent effective on the omicron variant," Campbell said. "It's a little more effective if you get a booster shot.

"The good thing is that it seems to stay in the airways and not go into the bronchial tubes so it would be like a mild cold. The hospitalizations and severe illness from it seem to be a lot lower than the delta variant," she said.

Campbell said they are still looking at how a recent court ruling could affect the health department's ability to monitor and contain the spread of COVID-19.

On Nov. 22, Cole County Judge Dan Green ruled state regulations granting local health departments the authority to issue health orders violated the Missouri Constitution. As a result, he declared orders issued unilaterally under the regulations "null and void."

"We weren't issuing quarantine orders, but the bad thing about it is it's not just COVID, it's all communicable diseases," Campbell said. "So if we needed to do a quarantine for tuberculosis, I would have to come to you (the County Commission), and you would have to issue an order. Schools still have the ability to exclude kids who are sick, or who are liable to become sick, because they have authority under state statute."

Campbell noted the county had added a COVID-19 death Tuesday. This person died last month, was fully vaccinated and had a booster dose of vaccine, she said.

Campbell added there was a lull in COVID-19 testing after the Thanksgiving holiday. She believed the same thing would occur on Christmas and New Year's.

"People aren't going to get tested and ride it out, so after the holidays we'll probably have another increase in testing," Campbell said. "The local hospitals have been running at 15-20 COVID patients at any given time. We've also been asked about flu cases, and right now it's just over 60."

Print Headline: Omicron variant not yet found in county, health officials says


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