ASU researcher says omicron variant is now a majority of its positive lab tests

Posted at 5:51 PM, Dec 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-23 20:00:28-05

PHOENIX — The Executive Director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute says the omicron variant now comprises 60% of the COVID-19 cases his lab tests.

“It might vary depending on the population you're measuring,” said Joshua LaBaer MD, PhD. LaBaer is the Executive Director of the Biodesign Institute. “In other places, it may even be higher because our population tends to be protected and highly vaccinated,” Dr. LaBaer said.

Hospitals across Arizona are at or near capacity now. Nearly all the COVID patients who’ve been admitted are not vaccinated.

“It is too late to get full immunity from vaccination before Christmas, before New Year's Eve if you haven’t been vaccinated yet,” said Jessica Rigler, the assistant director for the Division of Public Health Preparedness at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Omicron is extremely infectious. But experts say it’s not believed to be as deadly as previous COVID-19 strains. Still, if you’re not vaccinated and that includes a booster shot, or if you have a pre-existing medical condition you can get very sick.

“We continue to be concerned about our hospital capacity in Arizona. Our hospitals continue to be extremely full,” Rigler said.

On Thursday the Governor’s office released a public service announcement encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. 55% of Arizonans are vaccinated. 75% of them still need to get a booster.

“That’s why it’s so critical for people to take other mitigation steps, too. If you got the sniffles, feeling achy recently, don’t go to that family gathering,” Rigler said.

In South Africa where omicron was discovered, there was a five-week peak before the cases began to decline. Dr. LaBaer with the Biodesign Institute says it’s too early to say whether Arizona will follow a similar path.