The Virginia Department of Health is cautioning residents this week to continue practicing virus mitigation efforts following reports of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in southern Africa and the Netherlands.
As of Monday, there were no known cases of the new variant around the America, a VDH news release states.
Officials are certain, however, it’s coming as previous variants have.
“Emerging variants such as omicron are expected and may be soon detected in the United States and Virginia,” the release states.
Denise Toney, director of the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services says in the release that Virginia has a “robust genetic sequencing program to determine quickly whether variants of concern are circulating in our communities.
“Our network of laboratories throughout the Commonwealth is committed to sequencing as many positive samples as possible,” she says.
The level of community transmission, remains high in most parts of Virginia, including all of the Lord Fairfax Health District, except Winchester, which is reporting substantial levels of transmission, according to the VDH website, vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/see-the-numbers/covid-19-in-virginia/community-transmission.
The emergence of the omicron variant “is a good reminder to Virginians to continue taking the important and simple steps that we know reduce the spread of COVID-19,” it says. “Vaccination remains the most important tool in fighting the pandemic.”
In the Lord Fairfax district, which covers Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue emerging and have been rising in recent days.
Six deaths around the area were reported Saturday and four on Tuesday.
Those deaths, which may have happened over the last several days or weeks, were reported in Frederick (three), Shenandoah (three), Page (two), Clarke (one) and Winchester (one).
Warren County’s last death was reported on Nov. 17.
The VDH has reported 58 deaths around the district this month and 172 since Sept. 1.
Of those, 59 were in Frederick, 40 in Shenandoah, 29 in Warren, 27 in Page, nine in Clarke and eight in Winchester.
The health district added 93 new cases on Tuesday and has a seven-day average of 82 new daily cases.
It added three new hospitalizations Friday for a seven-day average of three. Its seven-day average of new daily deaths is two.
On Friday, Virginia announced its first child death from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19. The child, who was between the ages of 10 and 19, lived in the Prince William Health District, according to a VDH news release.
Virginia has reported 111 cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome during the pandemic, and the Lord Fairfax Health District has reported five.
“Once again, we see how unpredictable viruses can be. Viruses change and mutate all the time, and as we learn more about this new variant, we need to continue taking precautions to reduce infections,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said in the Monday release.
He urged people who haven’t been vaccinated yet and are eligible to get vaccinated. Those eligible for a booster are asked to get their booster as soon as they can.
Oliver encouraged precautions including wearing face masks, social distancing, frequent handwashing, staying home if sick, and for those with COVID-19 symptoms or exposure to get tested.