Public Health Madison & Dane County said it had identified 150 cases of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, after identifying its first three cases just five days ago.
“We’ve seen Omicron spread rapidly in other countries and states, so this isn’t a surprise,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. “We will likely see rapid spread of Omicron in Dane County in the coming days and weeks. We all need to be prepared and take action now so that we can preserve our hospital capacity and prevent severe outcomes.”
PHMDC officials said in an email to Madison365 that they couldn’t say what percentage of all cases are Omicron in the county, because the cases that were sequenced to identify variant were not chosen at random, but were cases suspected to be Omicron. However, PHMDC did say on Twitter that the 150 cases discovered likely represent a small sample of all Omicron cases in the county.
Dane County is seeing about 250 new COVID-19 cases every day.
Omicron made up about seven percent of the randomly sampled cases in Wisconsin during the week of December 13, but is now estimated to make up about 75 percent of all cases in the United States.
PHMDC again recommended frequent testing and vaccination, with a booster, for everyone of eligible age in Dane County. Vaccinations have been shown effective in helping those infected with avoid hospitalization.
In the entire south-central region of Wisconsin, which includes 14 counties, there are currently only 14 intensive care beds available — about five percent of the total.
PHMDC announced yesterday that its mask mandate for most indoor spaces is extended until February 1.