Delta variant remains Washington’s ‘biggest concern’ despite arrival of omicron

Dec 6, 2021, 9:48 AM | Updated: 12:27 pm
booster shots, omicron...
A sign for a King County Public Health COVID-19 vaccination clinic located at the Tukwila Village Farmers Market on Sept. 22, 2021, in Tukwila. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

With the omicron variant having officially been identified in Washington, the focus of state health officials remains on a more dominant strain still comprising the vast majority of COVID-19 cases.

Emerging omicron variant ‘does not change our approach to fighting pandemic’

The omicron cases in Washington were found in three people, one in each of Thurston, Pierce, and King counties, based on samples collected between Nov. 29 and Dec. 1. Little is known about the variant at this point, with a level of uncertainty surrounding whether it is more transmissible, or causes more severe forms of illness.

As state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah noted in a weekend briefing, there are also larger concerns for the moment.

“The likelihood is that we are going to see more confirmations [of the omicron variant], but we have to also balance that with remembering our biggest concern right now is delta,” Shah noted.

The highly infectious delta variant has continued to comprise nearly all of the state’s COVID-19 cases, having been the driving factor behind a fall surge dating back to early September. Case rates in Washington have gradually dipped since then, but are still hovering around a level similar to what the state saw at the peak of its spring 2021 surge.

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Other health leaders have urged residents to look at the larger context surrounding the omicron variant, pointing to how “we know much more about COVID-19” now than we did during early surges, and “we’re better prepared for it.”

“Even with a highly mutated virus like omicron, we are not going back to square one of the pandemic,” King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said in a news release. “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.”

Moving forward, Duchin — as well as Dr. Shah — have maintained that the best defense against either the delta or omicron variants continues to be getting vaccinated and/or boosted.

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Delta variant remains Washington’s ‘biggest concern’ despite arrival of omicron