Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Mutations of the Omicron COVID-19 variant increasing in Michigan

May 16, 2022
<p>Kamaya Young fills vaccine syringes, sorting them by vaccine, during the COVID-19 vaccine booster clinic at the Breslin Center on Jan. 26, 2022. The vaccine she works with here is Pfizer, but she was filling both Moderna and J&amp;J as well.</p>

Kamaya Young fills vaccine syringes, sorting them by vaccine, during the COVID-19 vaccine booster clinic at the Breslin Center on Jan. 26, 2022. The vaccine she works with here is Pfizer, but she was filling both Moderna and J&J as well.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

As of late, the new Omicron variant has been on the increase in Michigan.

On Friday, Dec. 17, the first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was confirmed at Michigan State University, university spokesperson Dan Olsen had said. 

According to Michigan.gov, Ingham County had reported 41,184 positive cases on Jan. 10 alone, with 31.4% positive test rate results across all Michigan counties in just that week. 

Michigan State University had responded to the increase in cases by reverting to three weeks of remote learning for the start of the spring semester. All students and staff had also been required to receive the booster shot and update their vaccine information by Feb. 1.

Cases dropped again following the three weeks of online learning, and students were able to return to in-person classes starting Jan. 31. Cases continued to drop on and around MSU's campus, leading to reduced mask mandate requirements in the City of East Lansing and MSU.

Now, the Omicron variant is back on the rise just as the majority of students have left for summer vacation.

“Variants are not identified by the standard COVID test,” Ingham County Health Department Health Officer Linda Vail said in an email. “It just tells you if you are COVID positive or not.”

Random sampling as a variant emerges occurs to estimate the proportion of the variant that is circulating amongst the population.  

“It is just a random sampling and has to be sequenced to make that determination,” Vail said.  “Sequencing is not a diagnostic test but helps public health track what’s going on.  All we know right now is that the new Omicron variant is on the increase.”

Exact case information in Ingham County is not currently available; Vail said the county is still sampling the cases to see the extent of the recent increase. 

“We have cases; they will likely start sampling some that meet criteria (recent travel history, etc) that make the variant more likely,” Vail said.  “We simply don’t have that info. We will always only be able to project variants based on the sampling.  The COVID diagnostic test itself simply detects COVID, no matter the variant, and does not determine which variant. Again, the sequencing is not a diagnostic test.”

The university does not currently have a requirement for masks on campus, after the requirement was lifted for the summer semester, which starts May 16. However, Olsen said this can change in the coming weeks.

“MSU continues to closely watch the behavior of the virus and will take additional measures if needed to best protect our campus community,” Olsen said in an email.

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