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Omicron variant not yet detected in Hawaiʻi

A person queues to be tested for COVID-19 in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday. The omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, has been confirmed in several countries.
Jerome Delay
/
Associated Press
A person queues to be tested for COVID-19 in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday. The omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, has been confirmed in several countries.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the World Health Organization designated a new coronavirus variant, “a variant of concern.” The Omicron variant was identified in southern Africa and has been detected in several European countries and Canada.

The WHO reports the variant is able to create various mutations.

As of Nov. 29, there have been no detected cases of Omicron in the U.S. — though the White House chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said that he believes it's inevitable at some point.

Gov. David Ige said Monday, “While we are moving forward with updated emergency measures, we must remain vigilant. The Omicron variant will likely be detected in the United States."

State epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble said that if Omicron reaches Hawaiʻi, it will be immediately detected.

"Some of the tests that are still commonly used for PCR tests has a dropout in one of the targets. It’s called an S target dropout," she said. "We talked about this before last year when we were concerned about the B.1.1.7 variant from the U.K. At that time we were able to scan for that variant by looking for S target dropouts through our participating laboratories."

If any laboratory detects an S target dropout, they are required to notify the state Department of Health in case it is the Omicron variant.

It is not yet clear yet if Omicron is more transmissible or causes severe diseases.

In response to Omicron, the CDC on Monday strengthened and simplified its advice on who should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster.

"Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot either when they are 6 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or 2 months after their initial J&J vaccine," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

The governor also renewed his call for residents to get vaccinated and for fully vaccinated adults to get their booster shots.

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