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Omicron dominant strain in U.S. but there are still no official cases in Nueces County

"I do believe that we have omicron and that you’re going to start seeing a very rapid rise in cases here very soon."

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The omicron variant of COVID-19 is now the dominant version of coronavirus in the U.S., according to federal health officials; yet Nueces County has still not officially seen even its first case.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a sharp increase in omicron's share of COVID-19 infections in just the last week. As of Monday, the omicron variant now accounts for 73% of infections in the U.S., and even more in some parts of the country.

Even closer to home, Harris County reported Monday the first death in the U.S. caused by the omicron variant -- a man in his 50s who was not vaccinated and had an underlying health condition.

The Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District has warned residents to remain vigilant, saying it's only a matter of time before the variant finally makes its way to the Coastal Bend -- but why have we not even seen a single case when it's so prevalent elsewhere?

One reason that omicron has not been detected in Nueces County may be the number of positive cases the County is sending to labs for genome sequencing, the process that tells what variant of COVID-19 a person has tested positive for. According to Public Health Director Annette Rodriguez, Nueces County only submits 5% of positive cases for genome sequencing, and that 5% only comes from tests handled by the Health District themselves.

Even after a sample is sent for genome sequencing, that process can take between 2-4 weeks, according to Rodriguez. That means omicron could be here and we might not know it yet.

"I do believe that we have omicron and that you’re going to start seeing a very rapid rise in cases here very soon," Rodriguez said.

RELATED: Health Director: Five percent of positive cases in Nueces County are submitted for sequencing

So as Coastal Bend residents prepare for holiday gatherings this weekend, health officials are recommending that everyone be careful not to spread any infections.

Dr. Kim Onufrak with the Public Health District said making sure you are vaccinated is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from omicron -- and if you are vaccinated and it's been six months since your last shot, get a booster.

RELATED: Helpful tips to prevent spreading COVID-19 this holiday season

Onufrak also suggested hosting holiday gatherings outdoors or in a place with good ventilation. She recommended knowing the vaccination status of those you are gathering with.

And if you're still taking part in last-minute shopping for Christmas, Onufrak said to mask up because there are sure to be crowds.

For the latest updates on coronavirus in the Coastal Bend, click here.

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