Omicron quickly becomes dominant variant in Florida county’s wastewater samples


The Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is seen at the theme park, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Disney has paused its policy requiring Florida-based employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine following new laws passed by the state’s legislature last week that limit employers’ power to require vaccinations, according to a memo sent to employees. The company informed employees in a memo sent Friday that it has paused the requirement due to the state legislature’s action during a special session last week, and because of an appeal court’s temporary delay of federal vaccination guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Orlando Sentinel reported. (AP Photo/John Raoux, file)

ORLANDO, Fla. (NEXSTAR) — Even though there have been no cases of clinical infection, the new omicron variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the Florida county that is home to the nation’s largest theme park resorts.

That’s based on wastewater samples. Officials said Wednesday that the omicron variant has quickly surpassed the delta variant in collections taken from wastewater sampling sites in Orange County.

“The omicron variant makes up 100% of the samples analyzed. Some mutations of delta and delta plus were also detected in small quantities,” the local utilities commission told Orlando Weekly in a statement.

Preliminary tests last week detected omicron and additional testing Monday confirmed the finding.

“The tests confirmed with certainty that omicron is rapidly becoming the prevalent variant found in all three of Orange County’s wastewater plants,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said at a news conference Wednesday. “I will reiterate that the delta variant was still seen, but in smaller proportions.”

It’s a different story when it comes to people seeking treatment for COVID-19, though. Demings said that those being hospitalized primarily have been infected with the delta variant.

Meanwhile, the county’s positivity rate has improved, Demings said.

“The 14-day rolling positivity rate continues to go in the right direction. As of today, the rate remains below 5%,” according to Demings. That number is nearly half of what it was last year.

Demings attributed the falling positivity rate to the vaccine rollout and urged people to get the shot if they haven’t yet.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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