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Sacramento County's omicron testing technology hits week-long delay

While California labs have yet to identify a case of omicron in Sacramento, the county's own testing technology often takes week-long delays to confirm test samples.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — While COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are way down compared to last year's Thanksgiving spike, the threat of omicron continues looming over the city.

Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye provided an update Thursday on the status of COVID-19 in Sacramento County.  

"It's probably safe to say (omicron) is present locally," said epidemiology program manager Jamie White on Thursday. "We just have not yet received confirmation from the state lab who is doing a sampling of our cases for genotyping."

White also said delta remains the dominant coronavirus variant in the county, but one of the only things preventing omicron from claiming the top spot is time — and testing speed.

Testing for omicron in Sacramento

Two methods county public health uses in identifying omicron includes an in-house lab for whole genome sequencing, as well as shipping off samples to a state lab for testing known as genome typing.

And though Kasirye announced on Dec. 2 the county's new ability to do genome sequencing tests would speed up efforts to identify omicron in a patient, she said Thursday test results continue being delayed.

"The shortest period that (whole genome sequencing) can take is five days, but usually it takes two to three weeks to complete the whole process," Kasirye said. "That's the main reason it's used more as a tool for surveillance as opposed to making decisions on patients we're receiving."

Genome typing test results also have the potential of being delayed, as the process is outsourced from state labs receiving Sacramento County Public Health's samples.

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