The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) announced Sunday, December 19, that it has detected the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus in a specimen collected from an unvaccinated Indiana resident. No additional details about the patient will be released due to privacy laws.
The variant was detected through the IDOH Laboratories’ variant surveillance program. The specimen was collected Dec. 9, and the patient was notified of the positive test. The sequencing to detect a variant was then conducted, and the Omicron variant was detected this weekend.
Indiana was one of just seven states in which Omicron had not yet been detected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but is predicted to soon be the dominant variant throughout both the state and country in the coming weeks.
The Omicron variant is the latest mutation of the virus that causes COVID-19. The World Health Organization labeled it a variant of concern on Nov. 26. Studies have shown that the variant spreads more easily and faster than the Delta variant.
The CDC says COVID-19 vaccines are expected to continue to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death from the Omicron variant. Evidence shows that individuals who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster dose are best protected against this variant.
State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG, said the latest mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus underscores the importance of getting vaccinated and taking other steps to prevent the spread of illness, especially as Hoosiers move indoors during the colder winter months and gather for the holidays.
“COVID-19 cases are on the rise across Indiana, and we do not want this variant to increase the burden on our already stressed healthcare system,” Box said. “While we are still learning about Omicron, we already have the tools and knowledge we need to protect ourselves and the people we love from COVID-19. I urge eligible Hoosiers to use those tools as soon as possible to limit the further spread of disease.”
The following steps can help protect Hoosiers from COVID-19, including the Omicron variant:
• Get fully vaccinated if eligible, and get a booster if you are age 16 or older
• Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth in indoor public settings and crowded outdoor settings
• Get tested if you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19
• Stay home if you are sick
• Wash your hands frequently
• Avoid crowds
On Tuesday, President Biden announced that he is shipping 500 million free rapid COVID tests across the country. Indiana will also be receiving immediate support from federal medical personnel and additional ventilators and equipment from the national stockpile to alleviate overcrowding and relieve overworked medical professionals. Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) released the following statement:
“At the same time President Biden is making an unprecedented effort to keep American citizens safe, Indiana’s Republican leadership is working overtime to make us the most dangerous state in the nation for COVID-19. Their priority legislation this year is a targeted attack on science and safety measures implemented by private businesses. President Biden is ensuring that Hoosiers and businesses aren’t forced to pick up the tab for testing, while the Republicans’ proposed bill would do the opposite.
“Healthcare workers are exhausted. Hoosiers are exhausted. Nearly eighteen thousand Indiana citizens have died—many thousands of those deaths were preventable. Our best defense and our only way forward is vaccination. The supermajority cannot continue to talk out of both sides of their mouth: either they want Hoosiers safe and the pandemic over, or they don’t. Thank you to President Biden for his leadership—now it’s time for Indiana Republicans to step up to the plate.”
Individuals aged 5 and older are currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. To find a vaccination site, visit www.ourshot.in.gov. Pediatric sites are marked with a red pin on the map. For testing information, visiting www.coronavirus.in.gov.
Information about the Omicron variant will be added to the COVID-19 dashboard at www.coronavirus.in.gov this week.
Visit the Indiana Department of Health at www.health.in.gov for important health and safety information, or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/StateHealthIN.