COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Cases of the new COVID-19 omicron variant have officially been identified in Ohio.
On Saturday, the Ohio Department of Health announced the state’s first omicron cases have been found in central Ohio.
Doctors said this discovery is not a surprise and that it was just a matter of time before the variant appeared in the Buckeye State.
“It’s not a surprise and it’s not a reason for panic,” said OhioHealth infectious disease expert Dr. Joseph Gastaldo.
ODH reported two men tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Their tests were sent to an Ohio State University laboratory where it was determined they were omicron cases.
ODH said those two men received their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine more than six months ago but had not received their booster shots yet.
“It should surprise nobody that omicron is here in our country, in our state, and in our community and I’d be willing to bet you it’s probably in more communities in Ohio,” Gastaldo said.
Gastaldo said the variant needs to be studied and that people need to pay attention to it, but it does not change the approach to fighting the pandemic.
“I think the omicron variant discovery in Ohio is not a cause for alarm,” he said. “It does not change anything in what we really need to be focusing on. Number one, getting vaccines into arms of people who have not yet had them.”
He added that omicron being found in Ohio adds to the importance of vaccines, boosters, and other protection measures that have been taken during the pandemic. He said early studies show omicron might not cause as severe infection, but it’s too early to know for sure.
“We will never know with certainty how long omicron has really been here in our country or in the state of Ohio,” Gastaldo said. “One thing I will say is we need to still pay attention to it. Ninty-nine percent of what we’re still seeing is delta.”
ODH said the two men who tested positive with the omicron variant are reporting mild symptoms.
Gastaldo said the country is in the middle of a winter surge of the virus. As of Sunday, ODH reports just over 4,600 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized. The last time those numbers were that high was one year ago.