Omicron coronavirus variant confirmed in 18 Iowa residents

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The number of confirmed cases of the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus has increased to 18 in Iowa.

The Des Moines Register reports that the variant has been detected in residents of Black Hawk, Jefferson, Johnson, Linn, Polk, Scott and Story counties, the Iowa Department of Public Health said Friday afternoon.

“Iowans should expect that community spread of the omicron variant is occurring,” agency spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand said, adding that 13 of the 18 cases were confirmed Friday. They included infections in people who had not traveled recently.

Such was the case with an adult in the Des Moines area who tested positive for the variant, said Kari Lebeda Townsend, disease prevention supervisor for the Polk County Health Department. The patient was vaccinated but had not received a booster shot and developed a mild case of COVID-19, the department said.

Early data out of other countries suggests the new variant might tend to cause less severe cases of COVID-19, but Lebeda Townsend said it still could be dangerous for unvaccinated people, the elderly and people with chronic health problems. She urged people to get vaccinated as hospitalizations rise in the state.

“Things could be a lot better,” she said. “We don’t have to be in this place.”