Omicron variant not found in Washington state as of Tuesday

Health officer: Precautions work against newest version of COVID-19

The omicron COVID-19 variant that was first found in South Africa is the newest one of concern for the novel coronavirus, but it is not a reason to panic, said the public health officer for the North Olympic Peninsula.

As of Tuesday, no cases of the omicron variant had been sequenced in Washington, and, due to the higher level of sequencing the state does, officials believe they will know relatively quickly when cases of omicron do appear here, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“At this point, we don’t know enough about it, but we’re studying it and following it very closely,” Berry said. “We know that we’re seeing a rise in it in South Africa, where we’re watching that.

“It very well may be a more transmissible variant — early data indicates that — but we don’t know yet if it’s a more severe variant, and that really matters.”

As viruses randomly mutate, they commonly become more transmissible, but sometimes the viruses also become less severe, Berry said.

If omicron is proven to be less severe, “that would be a good outcome,” Berry said.

While omicron is concerning, prevention measures such as vaccinations, mask wearing, social distancing and limiting gatherings that work against the current delta variant also help to prevent transmission of omicron, Berry said.

“Right now our available protections we use for delta work for omicron,” Berry said. “There’s a tendency when we see a new variant to panic, but we have the tools to control this virus. We just have to use them.”

Viruses mutate more frequently in areas with high virus transmission, which largely correlates with the percentage of the population vaccinated. In South Africa, less than 30 percent of the residents are vaccinated, leading to high levels of transmission and more potential for mutations, Berry said.

“Mutations like this are expected so long as we have unequal distribution of vaccines throughout the world,” Berry said. “This really should serve as a reminder and a wake-up call to all of us that we need to act to improve distribution of vaccines globally.”

Berry said the SARS-CoV-2 virus —which causes COVID-19 — is not mutating to “get around” the vaccines. Viruses randomly mutate as they get transmitted to others, and that is why mutations are more common in areas with low vaccination rates, she said.

On the North Olympic Peninsula, officials continue to monitor two long-term care facility outbreaks, with one each in Clallam and Jefferson counties. Both have now had a full testing of no new cases, which is hopeful, Berry said.

The Jefferson County outbreak has had a total of 15 cases, while the Clallam County outbreak has had 42 cases, she said.

New cases

On Tuesday, Clallam County added 16 new cases of COVID-19. The county has confirmed a total of 5,273 cases since the start of the pandemic, county health data said.

Jefferson County added six new cases on Tuesday. The county has confirmed a total of 1,303 cases since the pandemic began, according to county public health data.

Clallam County had a case rate of 174 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Tuesday, according to county public health data.

Jefferson County will update its case rate on Friday, due to last week’s Thanksgiving holiday. Health officials recorded a case rate of 192.61 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Nov. 17.

Neither county reported a death due to COVID-19 on Tuesday. Clallam County has had 72 residents die from COVID-19, while Jefferson County has had 19 residents die.


Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at

More in News

Jon Picker, airport and marina manager for the Port of Port Angeles, describes runway sections for William R. Fairchild International Airport on a diagram of the terminal area. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Fairchild upgrades completed

Ribbon cutting is planned for Dec. 12

Clallam County eyes changes to park fees

Public hearing on adjustments set Dec. 12

Rich Foutch of Active Construction, Inc., in Tacoma paints a line on the roadway at the new roundabout at Kearney Street and state Highway 20 for the placement of temporary stripes in a pedestrian crosswalk on Monday in Port Townsend. The temperatures have to be in the mid-50s to install permanent striping, he said. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Roundabout striping

Rich Foutch of Active Construction, Inc., in Tacoma paints a line on… Continue reading

Proposal to rename Sequim road put on hold

Rotary, city to consider other options to honor local Olympian

Researcher: Managed forests needed to fight climate change

Wood products can replace existing fossil fuel-based materials

Jefferson County updates fee schedules

Environmental Public Health up 6 percent

The downtown Port Angeles Christmas tree is surrounded by people during a lighting ceremony on Saturday at First and Lincoln streets. The 30-foot tree will stand at the Conrad Dyar Memorial Fountain plaza through the holidays. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Lit up for the holidays

The downtown Port Angeles Christmas tree is surrounded by people during a… Continue reading

Community Aid seeks support for Toys for Sequim Kids

Nonprofit helps hundreds of children with Christmas presents

Planned electrical outage in Forks on Thursday

A planned power outage in Forks will affect electric service… Continue reading

Nordland man dies of injuries from Nov. 14 wreck

A second person involved in a two-car collision on Nov.… Continue reading

Santa Claus, portrayed by Stephen Rosales of Sequim, waves to the crowd after his arrival by vintage fire truck at Centennial Place in downtown Sequim on Saturday, part of the city’s Hometown Holidays celebration. Santa, accompanied by Irrigation Festival royalty, greeted children next to the city’s Christmas tree in an event that also featured music by the Sequim City Band and a lighted tractor parade. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Holiday tradition

Santa Claus, portrayed by Stephen Rosales of Sequim, waves to the crowd… Continue reading

District 3 chief pick bows out

Fire officials could resume search in ’24