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Georgia sees sign omicron is spreading locally as cases rise

December 9, 2021 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s COVID-19 caseload is trending upward as state health officials detected a sign that the omicron variant of the virus is spreading locally.

Department of Public Health officials said Thursday that they confirmed an omicron case in an unvaccinated Atlanta-area resident who had not traveled abroad recently. Georgia’s two prior cases involved recent international travel. As with cases detected in some other states, that likely means the variant is spreading locally.

Health officials said the infected person had mild symptoms and is isolating at home. The department said it was trying to trace people who had close contact with the person and are at risk of developing the respiratory illness.

The department said the delta variant of the virus still makes up 99% of cases detected in Georgia. The state tests a small fraction of virus cases to determine the genetic variant, meaning more undetected omicron cases are likely present.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is trying to establish whether the omicron variant causes milder — or more severe — illness than other coronavirus types.

Georgia recorded a seven-day average of 1,366 positive tests for the virus on Thursday, after that number had bottomed out below 1,000 for most of November. The number of cases detected has been rising steadily since Thanksgiving, although cases levels still remain far below the peaks of more than 9,000 a day seen in January and August.

The number of hospitalized coronavirus patients is also rising statewide, reaching 1,090 on Thursday after bottoming out below 850 in late November.

Georgia has recorded more than 30,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Officials say cases are mostly in people who haven’t been vaccinated against the disease and urge people to seek inoculation against the virus to slow transmission and prevent the emergence of additional variants.

Anyone 5 and older is eligible to be vaccinated, while boosters are recommended for adults who completed the two-shot regimen of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least six months ago or who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago.