Somewhere in the northern part of Virginia, officials have confirmed the state’s first two cases of COVID-19 caused by the new Omicron variant of the virus.
It’s unclear exactly where the variant was detected. Officials have broadly said that someone in the state’s Northwest Health Planning Region tested positive for Omicron on Thursday.
The Northwest Region spans hundreds of miles and encompasses five health districts — including the local Blue Ridge Health District. BRHD is at the region’s southern end, and includes Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Nelson, Fluvanna, Louisa and Greene.
“Unfortunately, we’re not able to share cases by district level,” said Kathryn Goodman, a spokesperson for BRHD.
UVA Health has not yet detected the variant in its local health system.
The person who tested positive for Omicron in the Northwest Region had traveled within the United States “during the exposure period” but had not left the country, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Officials have not released any information about the second case, which was confirmed on Saturday somewhere in the North Health Planning Region. That is the state’s smallest region, and it includes Loudoun and Fairfax counties along with Arlington and Alexandria.
Virginia’s first Omicron cases arrive as the new variant is spreading across the country. It’s now in at least 30 states, according to the Washington Post.
Officials in Washington D.C. confirmed four Omicron cases over the weekend. The city abuts Virginia’s North Health Planning Region.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before we would record our first Omicron infection in the Commonwealth,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver, said in a statement released Friday.
“Scientists are hard at work studying the newly identified variant to understand how easily it spreads and how sick it makes people,” he continued. “Right now, the highly transmissible Delta variant is causing almost all cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.”
In the local BRHD, COVID case numbers are similar to what the district saw during this same time last year, as cases rose toward their holiday spike.
“We have very effective vaccines that can interrupt the chain of transmission and reduce the odds that unpredictable mutations like the Delta and Omicron variants will emerge,” Oliver said. “Do your part. Get vaccinated if you are eligible. Get your booster shot if you’re eligible. Vaccination is how Virginia, the U.S. and the world will put this pandemic behind us.”