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COVID-19 variant has been in North State for weeks

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Health officials in Butte and Shasta counties reported Wednesday that the highly-contagious omicron variant was detected in specimens collected Dec. 16.

In Butte County, the variant was detected in a fully vaccinated Chico resident who had not yet received a booster shot.

In Shasta County, four tests returned positive for the variant.

Close contacts of individuals infected with the omicron variant appear to be two to three times more likely to contract COVD-19 as compared with close contacts of those with the delta variant, according to public health officials.

Health officials have urged the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and to get a booster shot when eligible.

Other ways to prevent the variant from spreading include wearing an effective mask indoors, isolating when sick, and getting tested before attending gatherings.

Health officials said it’s still too early to say for certain whether the variant is less severe than others.

In Butte County, around 52% of eligible residents were fully vaccinated as of Dec. 27. Fully vaccinated means they have had two doses of an mRNA vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its vaccine recommendations and is now advising that individuals receive an mRNA vaccine rather than the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, the agency states that receiving any vaccine is preferable to not being vaccinated.

As of Dec. 29, around 50% of eligible residents in Shasta County were fully vaccinated.