The World Health Organization (WHO) labeled the new COVID-19 variant Omicron as a “variant of concern” on Nov. 26, after the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution advised it.
“This decision was based on the evidence presented to the TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes,” the WHO said.
A WHO update on Sunday on the organization’s website gave more details on the latest variant. The website said researchers in South Africa as well as other places in the world were investigating Omicron to “better understand many aspects” of the strain.
Regarding transmissibility of the new variant, WHO said it wasn’t clear yet if the new variant is more transmissible in comparison to other variants. It said the number of people that have tested positive rose in areas of South Africa that were affected by the new variant, but studies are being done to find out if that was due to Omicron or other factors.
Concerning the severity of the disease, the WHO said it isn’t clear yet if Omicron causes more “severe disease” when compared to infections of the other variants.
“Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron,” the WHO said. “There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants. Initial reported infections were among university students — younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease — but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks.”
The WHO update said that “preliminary evidence suggests” that there could be an increased risk for reinfection with Omicron compared to other variants of concern, but that “information is limited.”
Locally, Highland County schools saw 25 new COVID-19 cases from Nov. 15-21, according to an Ohio Department of Health (ODH) update that documents how each school in the county is faring with COVID-19 during the 2021-22 school year.
The last time The Times-Gazette reported on COVID-19 cases in county schools was from Nov. 8-14 when the schools saw 31 new COVID-19 cases.
Following are the total number of COVID-19 cases each county school has had during the current school year as well as the number of new cases from Nov. 15-21:
* Bright Local had no new student or staff cases. It has had 23 total student cases and three total staff cases.
* Fairfield Local had one new student case and one new staff case. It has had 59 total student cases and 16 total staff cases.
* Greenfield Exempted Village had 15 new student cases and two new staff cases. It has had 147 total student cases and 21 total staff cases.
* The Highland County Board of DD had no new student or staff cases, and has had no total student or staff cases so far this school year.
* The Hillsboro Christian Academy Preschool had no new student or staff cases. It has had four total student cases and three total staff cases.
* The Hillsboro Christian Academy Private School had no new student or staff cases. It has had four total student cases and three total staff cases.
* Hillsboro City had three new student cases, but no new staff cases. It has had 115 total student cases and 27 total staff cases.
* Lynchburg-Clay Local had two new student cases and one new staff case. It has had 46 total student cases and eight total staff cases.
* St. Mary Catholic Preschool had no new student or staff cases. It has had no total student or staff cases so far this school year.
* St. Mary Catholic Private School had no new student or staff cases. It has had three total student cases and one total staff case so far this school year.
* Stonewall Academy had no new student or staff cases. It has had no total student or staff cases so far this school year.
Highland County is seeing 15 new COVID-19 cases each day, which is about 34 cases per 100,000 in population, according to The New York Times COVID Tracker.
Highland County has continued its stay in the highest risk category in terms of community transmission, according to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) COVID Data Tracker which was last updated Saturday. There are four different levels of community transmission — Low, Moderate, Substantial and High. Highland County is currently in the “High” designation.
Highland County’s COVID-19 case rate stood at 604.7 cases per 100,000 in population over the previous two weeks, according to the ODH Coronavirus Dashboard, which was last updated Thursday. The case rate was above the state average of 538.2 cases per 100,000 in population over the same time frame and ranks the county at 39th among the state’s 88 counties in terms of the highest case rates.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.