COVID-19 omicron variant confirmed in 1st Indiana patient

December 19, 2021 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tests have confirmed Indiana’s first known case of the COVID-19 omicron variant, state health officials announced Sunday.

The omicron infection was detected in a test sample collected from an unvaccinated Indiana resident, the Indiana Department of Health said. No information about the patient was released, with the health department citing privacy laws.

The test sample was collected Dec. 9 and the omicron variant was detected this weekend, the health department said.

Indiana was one of just seven states in which omicron had not yet been detected after first being identified last month, according to health officials.

Indiana is averaging about 40 COVID deaths per day this month and hospitalizations with the illness have topped 3,000 people for the first time in nearly a year amid the state’s ongoing infection surge, according to tracking by the state health department. That is up about 150% in the past five weeks as the state’s hospitals are strained with their highest-ever overall patient counts.

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State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said the omicron detection underscores the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations as people spend more time indoors and gather for holiday events.

“COVID-19 cases are on the rise across Indiana, and we do not want this variant to increase the burden on our already stressed healthcare system,” Box said. “While we are still learning about omicron, we already have the tools and knowledge we need to protect ourselves and the people we love from COVID-19.”