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Two likely omicron cases identified in Florida


The first two presumptive cases of the omicron variant have been identified in Florida.

The first case was in Tampa and was confirmed by a local Veterans Affairs lab, Department of Health spokesman Jeremy Redfern said Tuesday. The second presumptive case was identified by the Department of Health's genetic sequencing of a portion of positive COVID tests.

The department is not releasing the location of the second case until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sends final confirmation, Redfern said.

"The Department of Health operates three state-of-the-art laboratories across the state of Florida that are currently handling all required variant sequencing demands," Redfern wrote in an emailed statement. "If a case is sequenced by the department and determined to be a presumed positive variant of concern, this sample is sent to CDC for final confirmation.”

Florida screened just 4.5% of positive COVID tests for variants over the past six months — far fewer than most other states.

Florida's 4.5% screening rate ranks 40th in the country for the portion of COVID cases screened and shared with the open access database, GISAID.

Omicron has now been located in 18 states, including Georgia. Preliminary reports indicate that people infected with the omicron variant have milder illness, but it may be transmitted more easily between people than other variants.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.