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UA researcher identifies Omicron cases on campus

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Posted at 5:57 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 21:17:04-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — "Over the weekend, I thought, I bet the Omicron is on campus," said University of Arizona Department Head of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Michael Worobey.

Worobey was right. He led the effort that discovered seven cases of the Omicron variant within the campus community.

"I got up early in the morning and analyzed and put them together. I saw that absolutely this was Omicron. Shortly after we looked at six others and they're all Omicron, as well," said Worobey.

The samples were pulled from the University of Arizona's COVID-19 testing program. Worobey and his team analyzed their unique sequencing in the Genetics Core Lab.

"We actually developed the, sort of, first version of what we use, and what is used around the world, to sequence these viruses," said Worobey.

The University of Arizona said plans are being made to protect the community from Omicron spread. While its arrival may be later than in other places around the country, Worobey said the discovery should be taken seriously.

"It's here. It's very contagious. If we found it in this many patients already, it's in lots of others," said Worobey.

Worobey said vaccination is still the best way to protect yourself, and those you love, as the variant makes its way through Southern Arizona.

"My concern is how things are going to look in three to four weeks, if it moves in the way that I suspect it will. If you haven't been vaccinated, you will get Omicron," said Worobey.