CDC officials confirm 2nd case of omicron in Florida

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention verified a second case of the omicron COVID-19 variant in St. Lucie County.

“St. Lucie County has a confirmed case of omicron in a resident who traveled internationally,” said Jennifer J. Harris, spokesperson for Florida Department of Health - St. Lucie, “This is a routine epidemiological investigation we and every other health department gets involved in to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases, like COVID.”

The first case of omicron in Florida announced Tuesday afternoon was found at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa.

Florida Department of Health spokesperson Ryan L. Terry told the Orlando Sentinel that genomic sequencing had identified this second case on Tuesday as well, but declined to share its location until the CDC confirmed it.

The Florida DOH released a statement Tuesday at 6 p.m. on Twitter announcing that its positive omicron result had been confirmed by the CDC, and contact tracing had been completed.

“Contact tracing has been conducted to identify any possible exposures, as well as implement any necessary isolation and quarantine protocols,” the statement said.

Omicron, first reported in South Africa, arrived in the U.S. last week and is designated as a “variant of concern” by the CDC, based on preliminary evidence omicron spreads more easily than the original COVID-19 virus.

Breakthrough infections are likely to occur, according to the CDC’s website, though vaccines are still expected to prevent severe illness. More research is needed to conclude whether omicron infections will be more or less severe than infections from other COVID-19 strains, the CDC states.

The variant has not been detected by the Florida Department of Health in Orange, spokesperson Kent Donahue confirmed on Wednesday.

The city of Altamonte Springs in Seminole County did not detect omicron in a Monday sample of its sewage, said City Manager Franklin Martz, though it is possible omicron was there in undetectable levels. The city will sample the wastewater again on Thursday, with test results expected over the weekend.

The city’s surveillance covers about 135,000 people living in Altamonte Springs and parts of Longwood, unincorporated Seminole County, Maitland, Eatonville and Winter Park.

The variant could be in Central Florida even though it hasn’t been detected, multiple health experts have warned over the past couple of weeks.

DOH’s Harris asked everyone to continue to exercise caution.

“We would encourage people to maintain healthy habits to protect against respiratory germs like COVID or the flu,” she said. “Get vaccinated. Stay home when sick. Continue to practice all the measures we have communicated since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.”

Orlando Sentinel reporters Stephen Hudak and Skyler Swisher contributed to this reporting.

ccatherman@orlandosentinel.com