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Oklahoma becomes 49th state to identify omicron COVID-19 variant


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma health officials announced Tuesday that they’ve detected the state’s first confirmed case of the omicron COVID-19 variant.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health didn’t release any information about where the case originated or whether the person was vaccinated.

The variant’s appearance in the state had been expected as it has been spreading throughout the United States.

“Early research is indicating that the mitigation methods we’ve been using to combat COVID-19 are still the best way to detect and prevent severe illness from the omicron variant,” interim Commissioner of Health Keith Reed said in a statement. “Getting your COVID-19 shot is the best way to protect yourself and others, even from new variants like this one.”

Oklahoma was one of the last states to confirm the presence of omicron. Federal health officials said Monday that omicron is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of infections last week.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Oklahoma declined over the past two weeks, going from 1,245.43 new cases per day on Dec. 5 to 788.14 new cases per day on Dec. 19, but the number of daily deaths increased during the same time period, from 17.71 deaths per day to 28.33 per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

About 53% of Oklahomans are fully vaccinated, well below the national average of 61.6%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.