Omicron quickly becomes dominant variant in Florida county’s wastewater samples


FILE – This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19. The World Health Organization has appointed an independent scientific panel to advise on whether vaccine shots need reformulating because of omicron or any other mutant. (Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/CDC via AP, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. (NEXSTAR) — Even though there have been no cases of clinical infection, the new omicron variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the Florida county that is home to the nation’s largest theme park resorts.

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That’s based on wastewater samples. Officials said Wednesday that the omicron variant has quickly surpassed the delta variant in collections taken from wastewater sampling sites in Orange County.

“The omicron variant makes up 100% of the samples analyzed. Some mutations of delta and delta plus were also detected in small quantities,” the local utilities commission told Orlando Weekly in a statement.

Preliminary tests last week detected omicron and additional testing Monday confirmed the finding.

“The tests confirmed with certainty that omicron is rapidly becoming the prevalent variant found in all three of Orange County’s wastewater plants,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said at a news conference Wednesday. “I will reiterate that the delta variant was still seen, but in smaller proportions.”

It’s a different story when it comes to people seeking treatment for COVID-19, though. Demings said that those being hospitalized primarily have been infected with the delta variant.

Meanwhile, the county’s positivity rate has improved, Demings said.

“The 14-day rolling positivity rate continues to go in the right direction. As of today, the rate remains below 5%,” according to Demings. That number is nearly half of what it was last year.

Demings attributed the falling positivity rate to the vaccine rollout and urged people to get the shot if they haven’t yet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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