Omicron variant in California: Few identified cases but Were definitely seeing omicron across the state, key California official says – San Francisco Chronicle

Latest updates:

Stealth version of omicron evades routine tests: Scientists have identified a “stealth” version of the omicron variant that cant’ be detected with the routine tests that public health officials are using to track its global spread, the Guardian is reporting. It has many mutations in common with standard omicron, but it lacks a particular genetic change that allows laboratory PCR tests to be used to flag probable cases. Researchers say it is too early to know whether the new form of omicron will spread in the same way as the initial omicron variant, but that the “stealthy” version is genetically distinct and so may well behave differently. Story here.

Delta variant the No. 1 problem despite wastewater showing omicron: Public health officials emphasized Tuesday that the delta variant of the coronavirus remains the biggest threat now, even though the omicron variant has been detected in wastewater in Sacramento and Merced counties. The number of omicron cases diagonosed in California stands at just 10, but the wastewater sample suggests that omicron is circulating in those counties as well, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said on a panel discussion on Tuesday. “We’re definitely seeing omicron across the state,” she said. Read the full story here.

Study finds less likelihood of long COVID among vaccinated: A study of self-reported symptoms indicates that vaccination against COVID-19 reduces likelihood of developing long-COVID. The research from in Massachusetts, which is not yet peer reviewed, looked at 240,648 COVID-19-infected people and found that those who received at least one vaccine shot prior to their COVID diagnosis were 7-10 times less likely to report two or more long-COVID symptoms, compared to unvaccinated patients. Unvaccinated patients getting a shot within four weeks of COVID infection were 4-6 times less likely to report multiple long-COVID symptoms. The supports the hypothesis that COVID-19 vaccination is protective against long-COVID and that effect persists even if vaccination occurs up to 12 weeks after COVID-19 diagnosis,” the authors wrote.

Omicron will ‘still be nasty’ if mild, prominent UCSF doctor says: Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at UCSF, tweeted on Tuesday that even as he hoped that the omicron variant will be less severe than the delta strain of the coronavirus — as preliminary data may indicate — “if Omicron is somewhat less severe but far more transmissible, that’ll still be nasty.” Wachter also noted that the delta variant “remains the major threat & it’s killing >1000 in U.S./day.”

Omicron detected in wastewater samples in Sacramento and Merced counties: Dr. Erica Pan, the state epidemiologist, said Tuesday that there are now 10 confirmed omicron COVID cases in California and that traces of the variant have also been detected in wastewater samples in Sacramento and Merced counties. “This is certainly suggestive that there is virus circulating there as well,” Pan said during a grand rounds briefing of health professionals. “We’re definitely seeing omicron across the state, for sure.”

COVID cases rising quickly in Marin: Cases in the highly vaccinated county have more than doubled since Thanksgiving. But only one person is hospitalized with COVID-19, and the county health officer said Tuesday that the local mask mandate is not coming back unless hospitalizations rise sharply. Read more here.

COVID-19 deaths on the rise in the U.S.: The seven-day average of daily deaths linked to COVID-19 in the United States is now more than 1,150, according to data for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That represents a 57% increase in a week. New cases are also on the rise nationwide, with an average of 103,000 new cases per day.

Uganda is 9th African country to confirm omicron cases: Uganda, in East Africa, reported its first seven cases of the omicron coronavirus strain on Tuesday. The variant was detected in travelers arriving from South Africa and Nigeria, and all had mild symptoms, officials said. That makes nine African nations now confirming omicron cases: Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. South Africa remains the epicenter of the omicron outbreak, with experts saying that the overwhelming majority of its thousands of new cases per day are of the new variant.

Very early data in South Africa hospital shows comparatively few omicron ICU admissions: Intensive care admissions for patients sick with the omicron variant of the coronavirus in a hospital complex near Pretoria numbered 2 out of more than 160 patients, a lower ICU rate than for earlier waves of coronavirus, a report this week from the South Africa Medical Research Council states; the report includes a caveat that this was data just for the first two weeks of the outbreak, Nov. 14-29. Just 21% were treated with oxygen, also lower than in earlier stages. The hospital complex in South Africa was in the area where omicron was first detected.

Fast spread of omicron could lead to new mutations, warns Pfizer CEO: Even though early reports suggest the omicron variant may lead to milder illness than other coronavirus variants, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Tuesday warned that because of its high transmissiblity, it could lead to more trouble in the future. “I don’t think it’s good news to have something that spreads fast,” Bourla said during an appearance at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit. “Spreads fast means it will be in billions of people and another mutation may come. You don’t want that.”

San Mateo County cancels 180 vaccine appointments due to staffing shortage, report says: A county spokesperson told the Daily Journal that the San Mateo Medical Center had to cancel a vaccine clinic that included 180 appointments because it did not have enough staff. It’s emblematic of a broader problem across the Bay Area, as health officials urge people to get boosters as well as first and second shots, but many sites are booked up, partly due to insufficient staff.

People in counties that voted heavily for Trump 3 times as likely to die from COVID: Since May, U.S. counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump in the last presidential election are three times as likely to die from COVID-19 compared to counties where President Joe Biden won a majority, according to an NPR analysis. Misinformation was cited as a primary driver for why pro-Trump counties have avoided getting vaccinated, placing them at greater risk of serious infection and death.

U.S. commits $400 million for global vaccination distribution program: As the potential threat of new coronavirus variants grips the globe, the U.S. said it plans to invest $400 million into a distribution program that helps other nations get vaccines to their citizens. The program, called Global VAX, helps counties with vaccine distribution and supply chain logistics, with a particular emphasis on reaching people in remote regions.

Should I take extra precautions outdoors because of omicron? Here’s what experts advise: Scientists are racing to learn whether omicron’s mutations make it more transmissible than the dominant delta variant —and leading experts are advising people to choose more-protective masks or double-mask indoors. But nothing about omicron yet warrants changes to behavior outdoors, health experts say. Read the full story here.

Two omicron cases reported Monday in Los Angeles County: Los Angeles County health officials announced Monday they had identified two new cases of the coronavirus omicron variant. One was in a fully vaccinated college student who had traveled to the East Coast, and reported mild symptoms. The other was in a fully vaccinated person who recently traveled from West Africa. That person also had mild symptoms, and their close contacts are fully vaccinated and have tested negative, L.A. health officials said.

Delta still drives the coronavirus case increases: With at least 30 cases of the highly mutated omicron variant now identified in the United States — including two new cases reported in Los Angeles County on Monday — health experts can’t yet say whether it will pose a bigger threat than the delta strain, which is still driving the national coronavirus pandemic. Read the full story here.

SAP Center announces new vaccination rules: The SAP Center announced Monday that everyone ages 3-11 now has to be fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative coronavirus test within the past 72 hours to enter the venue. The policy, effective this Thursday with the Sharks game against the Minnesota Wild, is in keeping with the state and San Jose guidelines for mega-events, such as concerts and sporting events, Sharks Sports & Entertainment said. Everyone 12 and older already has to show proof of full vaccination. The policy for kids 11 and under will not be in effect for Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames. Details are here.

CDC underscores holiday testing and quarantine rules for air travel: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday re-emphasized, amid concerns over the new omicron coronavirus variant, that international travelers arriving in the United States now must be tested for the coronavirus no more than one day before they travel and show proof of negative results to the airline. CDC recommends also that international travelers get a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after arrival, and that unvaccinated travelers quarantine for seven days after travel.