An in-depth look at State Public Health Lab researchers learning about the omicron variant

Coronavirus

ROCKY HILL, Conn. (WTNH) – There are no reported cases of omicron in Connecticut, but the State’s Public Health Lab says it’s only a matter of time before omicron is detected in Connecticut.

Labs across the state are on high alert for the new COVID-19 variant.

“We have been on the highest alert since day one of this pandemic,” said Dr. Jafar Razeq, Director of the State Public Health Lab. “We take this very seriously.”

At the State Public Health Lab, positive samples are analyzed as researchers work to learn more about this evolving virus. A big part of what they do is look for variants, including omicron.

“Do you think it’s only a matter of time until we detect it here?” asked News 8’s Eva Zymaris.

“Indeed, it is,” replied Dr. Razeq.

Right now, over 400 people are hospitalized across the state due to COVID. The majority are in Hartford and New Haven counties.

Dr. Razeq explained they do research through genomic sequencing. It’s a process that allows them to spot mutations and identify these variants. They’re one of several labs in the state doing this.

“Connecticut is in a very good position to be able to identify the Omicron and other variants through the whole genome sequencing,” said Dr. Razeq. “Twenty-five percent of all positive cases in the case are being genome sequenced through the network labs around the state.”

Nationally, that number sits at about 10 percent.  

“There have been waves of infections and waves of hospitalizations that have really stressed the healthcare system,” said Dr. Mark Adams, of the Jackson Laboratory. “I think being able to recognize what’s behind those trends is really important.”

Dr. Mark Adams, of the Jackson Laboratory in Farmington, said it will take some time before we know the impact omicron will have on Connecticut.

“Each community, background, and population is different,” explained Dr. Adams. “Over the next few weeks, we’ll have a better idea of it.”

Once they do know more, this information is shared as the fight against the virus rages on.

“That kind of surveillance effort, happening everywhere throughout the world, we’re all able to take advantage of it,” said Dr. Adams.

In the meantime, everyone is being urged to do their part.  That includes getting vaccinated and boosted, practicing social distancing, and wearing a mask when appropriate. 

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