Crete-Based Health Department Reports Six Cases of New Omicron Variant

Dec. 3, 2021, 10:50 a.m. ·

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Nebraska is now the sixth state with the new omicron variant. The Public Health Solutions District Health Department, based in Crete, Nebraska, reports six cases of the new COVID-19 variant in its five-county jurisdiction.

The first known omicron case in Nebraska comes from an unvaccinated person who returned early last week from Nigeria and felt sick the day after, according to Kim Showalter, health director at Public Health Solutions. The other five cases were exposed to the first by "household contact." Only one of the six people were vaccinated. Showalter said none of the people needed hospitalization.

“We may be one of the first in the United States with omicron, but we're certainly not going to be the last," she said. "It's just like delta. We saw it creep its way throughout the entire United States. We know that it will be this way with this variant as well."

California, Colorado, Minnesota and New York are the other states that have detected the variant. Others will likely follow.

The health department in the southeastern part of the state includes Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Saline and Thayer counties. After the first patient tested positive for COVID-19, the Nebraska Public Health Lab later confirmed the variant, according to a news release.

Dr. Josue Gutierrez, the health department’s medical director, said it’s too soon to tell if this variant carries more mild symptoms than others.

"We still don't know much about it," Gutierrez said. "But in all of this I would like everyone to still keep calm.”

Showalter and Guiterrez said locals should treat this like any other COVID case: maintain proper precautions and get vaccinated.

“The identification of omicron reinforces the urgency for Nebraskans to get vaccinated," said Matt Donahue, Nebraska's acting state epidemiologist, in written statement.

More than 62% of Nebraska's population older than 5-years old is considered fully vaccinated, according to the state's dashboard.

Gov. Pete Ricketts responded to the news and said the will not lockdown nor mandate vaccines or masks.

“In Nebraska, we have learned how to balance living a more normal life while protecting our healthcare system,” Ricketts said in a written statement. “Coronavirus will be with us forever. That’s why we’ll continue that balance while also urging everyone to get vaccinated. Nebraska has maintained one of the lowest coronavirus death rates and protected our hospital capacity all without lockdowns, without mask mandates, and without vaccine mandates. We aren’t going to follow the Biden Administration or Dr. Fauci’s draconian policies.”

This is a developing story. Check later for updates.