Case updates December 3, 2021: Three Omicron cases in Washington state

Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Delta variant is the immediate threat but the
omicron variant is now present in the state
Public health officials have confirmed three cases of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus in Washington state. 

Gov. Inslee says that "It remains as important as ever to get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear a mask. 
"We cannot yield an inch to this virus and have the power to keep our communities safe."

COVID-19 Updates 


United States

  • Total cases 48,918,251 - 149,222 new     
  • Total deaths 784,893 - 1,492 new   

Information from the Washington Department of Health (DOH) about omicron:

DOH and the UW Virology Lab have confirmed three cases of omicron variant, one each in Thurston, Pierce, and King Counties — two men, one woman, ages 20 to 39.
The best protection from Omicron and other variants comes from getting vaccinated and getting boosters as soon as possible. This is especially important for children and adults with chronic conditions that place them at higher risk for severe disease from COVID-19.

And continue practicing preventive measures that work to slow the spread of COVID:
  • Wearing masks indoors
  • Avoiding crowds and large gatherings
  • Testing when you have symptoms & staying home when you’re sick
  • Using WA Notify
Confirmation came in midday Saturday, and patients are still being informed. Details about their conditions are unknown to DOH. Samples were collected between Nov. 29 and Dec. 1, 2021 and confirmed at an in-state lab.

This is early in the investigation, DOH does not believe the cases are related, but the travel history of the patients is unknown.

Little is known clinically about the omicron variant at this time. Researchers are working to learn more about it, but it was found here quickly thanks to increased surveillance efforts; lab specialists have been looking for omicron through PCR testing and genomic sequencing. The state also increased its lab capacity to detect genetic markers associated with new and existing variants.

Sequencing has been prioritized for anyone with travel history or close contact with a confirmed case. Case investigation and contact tracing among those at higher risk for contracting and spreading omicron has been prioritized. Travelers who have been to a country or state with omicron, or anyone identified as a close contact receive that prioritization.

“We knew that it was a matter of time before omicron was sequenced in our state and so we were anticipating this very news,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “We strongly urge people to get vaccinated and get their boosters as soon as possible to maximize their level of protection from any variant.”

The best protection from this variant and others comes from getting vaccinated and getting boosters as soon as possible. This is especially important for children and adults with chronic conditions that place them at higher risk for severe disease from COVID-19.

“Even with a highly mutated virus like omicron, we are not going back to square one of the pandemic,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle and King County. 
“Omicron may pose new challenges that we will need to respond to, but compared to the early days of the pandemic, we know much more about COVID-19, and we’re better prepared for it. We know layered protections work together to maximally reduce risk, and that will continue to be the case for delta and for omicron if that becomes a dominant strain circulating in our community.”

“If there is room for improvement in how we are using our current tools and strategies, this is a good time to make those improvements, especially vaccination and booster doses when eligible, good-quality masks indoors, improving indoor air quality and avoiding crowded indoor spaces along with other COVID-19 prevention measures,” said Duchin.

“We suspected that the omicron variant was circulating in our region, and now our laboratory has confirmed the first three cases in Washington state by viral genome sequencing in the last 24 hours. 

"Throughout the pandemic, it's been a huge team effort by the UW Medicine Virology Laboratory, requiring development and implementation of several diagnostic and sequencing assays to detect and confirm the variety of COVID-19 variants that have surfaced in Washington state,” said Dr. Geoffrey Baird, chair of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at UW School of Medicine. 

To date, the laboratory has tested approximately 3.8 million COVID-19 samples.  


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