The omicron variant of COVID-19 is now confirmed in both Indiana and Kentucky.
The Indiana Department of Health made the announcement Sunday, just days after Kentucky saw its first case.
According to a news release, the state department of health’s laboratory surveillance system detected the first case, in an unvaccinated resident, from a Dec. 9 sample. State officials declined to release broader information, including the part of the state where it was found.
Indiana and Kentucky join the more than three quarters of U.S. states which have identified the variant, first reported to the World Health Organization by South African Health officials in late November.
The first U.S. case was identified in California Dec. 1.
Although the new variant is still undergoing testing to determine its severity and resistance to vaccines, early findings show it may be more transmissible than previously identified strains. Indiana health officials on Sunday continued to urge vaccinations and boosters.
“COVID-19 cases are on the rise across Indiana, and we do not want this variant to increase the burden on our already stressed health care system,” state health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said in a statement. “While we are still learning about omicron, we already have the tools and knowledge we need to protect ourselves and the people we love against COVID-19. I urge Hoosiers to use those tools as soon as possible to limit the further spread of the disease.”
Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris echoed Box’s sentiments Sunday in a news release from the Floyd County Health Department, and recommended vaccinations for all eligible Hoosiers 5 years and older, as well as boosters.
“Booster dosing appears to be very helpful in protecting against the new strain,” the release states. “Becoming fully vaccinated is critically important for the medically vulnerable and their caretakers. The 20- to 40-year-old age group may be especially vulnerable to the omicron variant due to their low COVID vaccination rate.”
The Indiana Department of Health reported 5,181 new daily COVID cases and 53 new deaths in its Friday update. The positivity rate for all tests between Dec. 4 and 10 is 13.8%.