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Local COVID Cases Increase, Omicron Detected in LA County

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By Jorge Casuso

December 7, 2021 -- The number of coronavirus cases in Santa Monica ticked up last week after a brief dip, while another virus-related death was reported, according to County Health data.

The death reported last week comes after five deaths were reported the previous week, the most in nearly eight months, according to an analysis of the data.

The latest death brings the total number of COVID-related deaths in the city to 196. It typically takes about two weeks to confirm and report a virus-related death.

There were 79 confirmed cases of the virus last week, bringing the total number as of Sunday to 7,176 in the city of some 93,000.

The weekly rise comes after coronavirus cases cases in Santa Monica dipped to 57, after averaging 83 cases over the previous five weeks.

To date there have been 1,538,451 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the County of more than 10 million and 27,262 deaths, according health officials.

While for months the highly contagious delta variant has accounted for 100 percent of the cases sequenced countywide, three cases of the omicron variant have been reported over the past five days.

In all three cases, the resident who contracted the variant -- which was first identified in South Africa -- were fully vaccinated.

Two had returned from Africa -- one from South Africa, the other from West Africa -- while one had returned to LA County from the East Coast.

According to County Health officials, in the latest case, confirmed on Monday, "the individual is a college student who returned to Los Angeles County after holiday travel on the East Coast.

"The individual is fully vaccinated, had mild symptoms, and is self-isolating," health officials said, adding that they have identified close contacts, "all of whom are quarantining and being tested."

"Public Health is working with the university to determine if there are any additional close contacts," officials said. "Based on travel history, it is likely that the infection was acquired outside of Los Angeles County."

It remains unclear how contagious or deadly the omicron variant is.

On Friday, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said the omicron variant has been reported in 38 countries, with no deaths reported.

A small new study at two South African hospitals indicates the omicron variant may cause less severe illness than previous variants, such as delta.

According to the South African Medical Research Council, the report found that the majority of patients did not need extra oxygen. In fact, most discovered they were infected only after being admitted to the hospital for other health reasons.

While most of the patients were unvaccinated, there were also some vaccinated admissions.

It also remains unclear how well current vaccines protect against the omicron variant, with one small South African study finding that more than half were considered fully vaccinated, with two shots.

According to an article in USA Today posted Tuesday, a new lab study in South Africa suggests the omicron variant "might elude some of the protection against infection from the Pfizer vaccine."

As of Tuesday the new variant has been detected in 19 U.S. states.

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