AUGUSTA — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) announced Friday that the COVID-19 omicron variant has been identified for the first time in Maine. The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor conducted genomic sequencing that confirmed the omicron variant in five samples from Penobscot County from positive PCR tests recently reported to Maine CDC.
Maine and 40 other states have now reported cases of the omicron variant.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) classify omicron as a “variant of concern.” Early research and analysis indicate that omicron is more contagious than other COVID-19 virus variants. Scientists are researching how it compares with the delta variant in terms of transmissibility, disease severity and vaccine effectiveness. The delta variant is the predominant strain in Maine right now.
“This news is unwelcome, but not unexpected,” said Governor Janet Mills. “We knew it was only a matter of time before we detected the presence of omicron here in Maine. While we are still learning about this new variant, the take-away for Maine people should be this: Get vaccinated now and wear a mask when you’re indoors in public. Whether it’s your first shot or your third shot, getting vaccinated can protect your health, keep you from getting seriously sick, and even save your life.”
“The appearance of the Omicron variant reinforces the importance of taking every step we can to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. “That means getting vaccinated as soon as possible, getting a booster shot and wearing a mask while in indoor public places. These steps will keep Maine people alive and out of hospitals today and in the coming weeks and months.”
Public health authorities around the world are monitoring the omicron variant closely. More information is available from the U.S. CDC. Maine CDC anticipates that additional cases of the omicron variant will be identified through further genomic sequencing.
COVID-19 vaccines remain the best way for people to protect themselves and their families against COVID-19. Vaccines are available at no charge at sites across the state. For information on getting a vaccine, visit Maine.gov/covid19/vaccines or call the Community Vaccination Line at 1 (888) 445-4111.
Other public health prevention measures that help stop the spread of COVID-19 variants include getting tested and staying home if you are sick, frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer, wearing masks in indoor public settings, and telling your close contacts if you test positive for COVID-19 so they can take appropriate steps.