Washington state health authorities on Saturday confirmed that three cases of the omicronic variant of the coronavirus had been detected in Thurston, Pierce and King counties.
According to the Washington State Department of Health, the patients are two men and one woman between 20 and 39 years old.
“We knew it was a matter of time before omicron sequencing in our state, and so we were looking forward to this news,” State Health Minister Dr. Umayr Shah said in a statement. “We urge people to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible to maximize protection against any option.”
Confirmation came with lab results at noon Saturday from the UW virology lab, and patients are still being informed. Details of their conditions are unknown.
At this early stage of the investigation, Ministry of Health officials do not believe the cases are linked, but the history of the patients’ travel is unknown.
In a statement Saturday night, Gov. Jay Inslee said: “We knew this day was imminent, but the good news is that we have more tools at our disposal to fight the virus than at any previous stage of the pandemic, and we must continue to fight virus. protect ourselves and our communities. “
New COVID-19 cases in South Africa alerted the world to the omicron for the first time last week, and the variant is quickly being detected in several regions of the United States.
Washington and Massachusetts announced their first cases on Saturday, a day after New Jersey, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Maryland reported their first confirmed cases. Missouri reported its first alleged case on Friday. The variant has also been found in Nebraska, Minnesota, California, Hawaii, Colorado, and Utah.
Dr. Jeff Dachin, an official with the Seattle and King County Health Department, said in a statement that the emergence of this mutation does not mean the community will return during the worst days of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will not return to the starting point of the pandemic,” he said. “Omicron may create new challenges that we will need to answer, but compared to the early days of the pandemic, we know a lot more about COVID-19 and are better prepared for it.”
He urged people to get vaccinated and receive booster doses when they are eligible, and to adopt standard COVID-19 prevention measures: wear quality masks indoors, improve indoor ventilation, and avoid crowded spaces.
“We know that layered defenses work together to minimize risk, and this will continue in the case of delta and omicron if it becomes the dominant strain circulating in our community,” Duchin said.
We must continue to wear masks to indoor meetings, remember to wash our hands frequently, be aware of the risks of crowded indoor spaces, and stay home and away from others if you have symptoms.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durcan also issued a statement adding frequent hand washing to the list of precautions and urging people with symptoms to “stay home and away from others.”
This is an evolving story and will be updated.
This report includes materials from The Associated Press.