First omicron COVID-19 cases identified in Clark County

Coronavirus

Washington is bracing for more omicron cases

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Two people in Clark County tested positive for the omicron variant of COVID-19, health officials said Monday. One of those people is connected to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks among wrestling teams. 

This is the third omicron variant detected in the cases associated with the Washington wrestling outbreaks, but the first in Clark County. 

Clark County Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick said he expects to see much more prevalence of the omicron variant in positive tests in the coming weeks. 

He said the University of Washington Virology Lab estimates about 50% of the specimens submitted for sequencing right now have genetic markers associated with omicron and are likely omicron cases. 

The two omicron cases in Clark County are both among people who are fully vaccinated. Melnick said the COVID-19 vaccine is still the best way people can protect themselves against the variant and that vaccines appear to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death from the omicron variant. 

Clark County Public Health said preliminary evidence suggests people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected more easily with the omicron variant. Some early data also shows that monoclonal antibody treatments may not be as effective against infection with the omicron variant.  

“Your best bet, whether monoclonal antibodies are available or not, is to get vaccinated,” Melnick said. “Especially if you get the booster, that immunity lasts for a longer time.” 

Melnick said the state and county rely on schools to do contact tracing when students are in school. However, with students out of school for winter break, schools will not be able to monitor who they interact with. 

On Friday, state health officials asked school officials and districts to cancel wrestling tournaments and practices for the next few weeks after dozens of COVID-19 cases were traced back to wrestling events. The state recommends players, coaches and referees get tested for COVID-19 three times per week, especially on the day of an event. Both Vancouver Public Schools and Ridgefield schools hit pause on wrestling until after January 1.   

“We understand that wrestling is a really important activity for children,” Melnick said. “We’re worried about the safety, but also the in-person learning… We want to keep students in the classroom as well.” 

When asked if the county would consider asking schools if they’d start the semester after winter break remotely due to the spread of the omicron variant, Melnick said it will be based on the cases occurring in a community at a time. Public health officials have not made those recommendations for any Clark County schools, but they’re continuing to monitor omicron, hospitalizations, ICU use

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