Omicron soon to be dominant coronavirus variant in Seattle

SEATTLE — The CDC declared Monday afternoon omicron is the most common coronavirus variant in the U.S. And that’s driving the city of Seattle to increase its testing capacity.

UW Medicine says omicron could overtake the delta variant here within a week and a lot of people are concerned and getting tested.

All of this has local leaders on high alert with omicron spreading rapidly.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about omicron already,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “But we do know being vaccinated provides some protection.”

Durkan tried to provide some comfort at what she said was her last news conference as Seattle’s mayor, even while delivering sobering news.

She insists vaccines remain the key.

“It may not prevent all breath-through cases, but the statistics so far show that it does usually result in a less serious illness, less likelihood of hospitalization and lower mortality,” Durkan said.

She says 90% of Seattle residents are vaccinated, including 65% of children 5-to-18 years old.

But fear of contracting the virus is rising even among the vaccinated. After all, omicron was first discovered in King, Pierce and Thurston counties a little more than two weeks ago.

One issue with omicron is that it can be asymptomatic, says Dr. Alex Greninger, assistant director of UW Medicine’s Clinical Virology Lab.

“In a way, it’s good news but it makes it harder from the standpoint of transmission,” Dr. Greninger said.

So when should we get tested if we think we are sick?

“Symptomatic,” said Dr. Greninger. “Certainly fever, cough and this is supposed to be, a little more bronchitis-sy picture from omicron so far from what I’ve heard.”

And with the holiday season upon us, Dennis Worsham, the interim director of Seattle-King County Public Health, is emphasizing caution.

“If don’t need to travel, don’t travel,” said Worsham. “Don’t need to gather, don’t gather.”

But he says if you do gather, get vaccinated, get boosted, if you’re eligible, wear a mask, stay in well ventilated spaces and get tested.