US gears up for possible cases of omicron as 1st cases detected in Canada

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ByLuz Pena via KGO logo
Monday, November 29, 2021
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Scientists, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies in the Bay Area and across the U.S are gearing up for the Omicron COVID variant.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The new COVID-19 variant omicron continues to spread across the globe. On Sunday, Canada reported the first cases in North America. Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Fauci confirmed it's only a matter of time before this variant is detected in the U.S.

"Inevitably it will be here. The question is will we be prepared for it? The preparation that we have ongoing for what we are doing now with the Delta variant just needs to be ramped up," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President.

With 50 mutations omicron appears to be more transmissible than any other variant.

"We've been studying these mutations in isolation and trying to figure out what they do at a molecular level. Well, this new variant seems like it's in some ways some of the greatest hits. A number of these mutations have coalesced here on this new variant," said Dr. Nevan Krogan, Ph.D., Director of Quantitative Biosciences Institute at UCSF.

RELATED: US health officials work to answer 3 key questions about the new Omicron variant

We caught up with UCSF's Dr. Nevan Krogan hours before his flight to New York City where close to 50 virologists and scientists are holding an emergency meeting in response to the new variant.

"There is data that we have in hand that we can look at in greater detail," said Dr. Krogan.

California's Department of Public Health announced they are "doubling down on vaccination and booster efforts." Testing and sequencing companies like Bay PLS and Renegade bio are gearing up for the next two weeks when cases are projected to increase.

RELATED: New COVID variant Omicron putting Bay Area businesses on alert

"We are looking at the new variant and also the Delta variant to see what is the majority of the variant that is around the Bay Area. So far, it's only been Delta," said Salu Ribeiro, CEO of Bay PLS and co-founder of renegade.bio.

Sunday, at least 13 people who traveled from South Africa to the Netherlands tested positive for the new variant. Dr. Krogan believes this variant could change the way we approach testing.

"I think going forward we may have to rethink the time frames that we are looking at for testing. Right now is 72 hours. If this is indeed more transmissible and the data still needs to be collected on that front. We may have to shorten that time frame in terms of testing negative before people can travel," said Krogan.

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