WHEELING – A micron variant of COVID-19 has been found in Ohio County.
According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 Dashboard, there are currently two reported cases of micromicrons in the county.
Wheeling Ohio County Health Administrator Howard Gamble said the two cases were found in people tested in late December.
Determining which variant a COVID-positive person has is not easy, Gamble said.
Variants are confirmed using polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests that are sent from the testing center to a sequencing lab.
“We would guess that if we collect two from the end of December, so it takes some time for them to go to the reference lab and it takes time for them to be sequenced and let us know that we probably have cases of omicrons common in the area. Big Wheeling,” Gamble said.
He added that in both cases, people who tested positive for omicron traveled very little or not at all at a time when they might have been sick. According to Gamble, one of the omicron-infected people had mild symptoms, while the other “had a very rough time,” Gamble said, to the point where they thought it was a case of the delta variant. Not a single person had to be hospitalized.
During a COVID briefing by Gov. Jim Justice on Monday, the state’s coronavirus “czar” Dr. Clay Marsh said the omicron variant is currently the dominant variant in West Virginia. He said omicron accounted for 15% of new cases two weeks ago, 45 to 50% last week and 82% more recently.
The number of new COVID cases has skyrocketed in Ohio County in recent weeks. The total increased from 212 new cases between December 19 and December 26 to 502 new cases between December 26 and January. 2 to 701 Jan 2-9 to 861 Jan 9-16.
These post-Christmas raises are likely related to vacation travel and fees, Gamble said.
“In the future, we will most likely see other increases in cases, and it will probably be omicron (which is causing this),” he said. “If you look at the national trends in this disease, our region is behind the national trend by about two to three weeks. We need to start seeing our growth, if we are seeing it, during this period of time.”
Not every positive COVID test is analyzed for variants, Gamble said. Rapid tests are not sent to labs for sequencing.
Gamble hopes the rise in omicron-caused cases in Ohio County has a quick start but also a quick decline. He had seen encouraging evidence of this in news reports from areas where the omicron had hit earlier.
Gamble reminded people that getting vaccinated, wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining proper social distancing remain the best ways to avoid contracting COVID, no matter the option.
A website has been launched where you can order free COVID test kits at home. People can register for tests at special.usps.com/testkits.