FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – Fresno health officials spoke out for the first time since the announcement of the first confirmed case of the omicron variant in the United States.
As of Friday, Fresno County health officials say there are no reported cases of the variant in Fresno but say it’s likely that could change and so they’re prepared to respond.
They say they would not be surprised if the new variant was already here in the city.
“Sooner or later, the state or a lab from the state is going to contact myself or the medical community to say the whole genome sequencing shows a case on the omicron variant,“ said Dr. Rais Vohra, with the Fresno County Health Department.
Officials say genome sequencing on residents infected with COVID-19 is taking place to collect more data.
As of now, private labs in Fresno are playing a major role in tracking the new variant.
“As of today, 50% of the positive samples in Fresno County are being held through genome sequence,” said Joe Prado of the Fresno County Health Department.
The health department says the county is evaluating how they can best contribute to state efforts to track the spread of the new variant.
“Right now, you’re still seeing about a two-week turnaround on the whole genome sequencing and that’s when we’re utilizing those state assets,” said Prado.
Health officials say the good news is that the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is coming down and that means residents who’ve been delaying medical procedures because beds have been occupied by COVID-19 patients can now get the care they need.
However, Dr. Vohra says the lack of available beds remains a serious issue.
“Because we are already restricted in the number of beds and resources that we have in the Valley it’s always a challenge to try and find news beds, staff to take on additional volume,” said Vohra.
The county health department says they will continue to monitor the numbers post-Thanksgiving holiday, but officials worry about a surge in cases as we approach a colder month and more holidays.
“The month of December will determine whether things go back up and we will have more to tell in the next few weeks,” said Vohra.
Health officials continue drilling the importance of getting vaccinated or the booster shot, to stop the spread of COVID-19.