The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has arrived in Tennessee. The Shelby County Health Department reported two cases of the variant were identified in Shelby County on Saturday.
Dr. Michelle Taylor, Shelby County Health Director said, “We did expect the Omicron variant to appear in Tennessee, as it has in 19 other states.
Shelby County has excellent COVID-19 testing capacity, with several local laboratories which perform viral DNA sequencing as a part of routine surveillance. For that reason, our laboratories were able to identify the tell-tale DNA signature of this new variant. These results indicate the variant may already be spreading in Shelby County and possibly elsewhere in the state.”
While much remains unknown about the Omicron variant, what is known is that COVID-19 vaccines slow transmission of the virus and prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death, she said.
Shelby County Health Department recommends that everyone eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination should be vaccinated as soon as possible, and fully vaccinated individuals should receive a “booster” dose of vaccine if at least six months has passed since their second dose. Results of early studies indicate the booster doses may provide valuable protection against the Omicron variant, as well as the more common Delta variant, Dr. Taylor said.
Officials there said, "COVID-19 vaccines are widely available all over Shelby County, and dozens of clinics and pharmacy sites. To find a vaccination site near you, go to Vaccines.gov and enter your zip code.
"COVID-19 testing is also critical to controlling the spread of the virus. The public testing sites are listed on the Health Department’s COVID-19 website: https://www.shelby.community/.
"Masks are still required in schools covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, on public transportation and in certain congregate living settings. Masks are also highly recommended in all indoor settings when the vaccination status of everyone is not known. Masks, social distancing, and vaccines for those eligible to be vaccinated, provide valuable layers of protection against the COVID-19 virus, including all its variants."