HENDERSON, N.C. (WNCN) – The genomics team at Mako’s Henderson lab is sequencing thousands of positive COVID-19 samples for the omicron variant.
“We’re getting a lot of calls, the volume has definitely picked up,” said Steve Hoover, vice president of Lab Operations at MAKO.
He added, “It really kicked in for us at the end of last week when the World Health Organization ruled omicron a variant of concern.”
While there are still a lot of unknowns, people with the omicron variant appear to show mild symptoms.
Dr. Anthony Fauci called the variant concerning but said for now, it’s nothing to panic over.
Hoover told CBS 17 the lab tests between 25,000-30,000 COVID samples from 45 different states every day. MAKO has a contract with the Centers for Disease Control that requires them to sequence each sample that comes back positive.
That process determines the variant.
Hoover explained, “To determine the variants is very important from an epidemiology standpoint, whether they’re developing vaccines, tracking the spread.”
The omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa and has been detected in several other countries, including the U.S. As of Thursday, one case has been detected in California and another in a Minnesota resident who recently traveled to New York.
“I think without a doubt it’s going to show up in some of the samples that we’re testing,” said Hoover. ”We don’t know what scale. We had a South African variant before that was very mutant. We got some cases, but it never turned out to be anything. The guidance we’re hearing is that this is highly transmissible, but I think time will tell.”
The sequencing process time is fairly quick. From start to finish, it takes about 36 hours to determine the variant.