Durham County plans to expand COVID-19 testing after omicron cases detected

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Six cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant have been detected in Durham County. Nationwide, positive cases of the new strain are doubling almost every day.

One of Durham’s drive-though COVID-19 testing sites saw a slow but steady stream of people coming through to get tested Monday.

“I’ve been getting tested weekly since it’s been available,” said Jeff Stern.

It’s a work requirement for Stern but he thinks weekly testing is safer for everyone at work.

That is especially true with the more contagious omicron variant now in the county.

“I’m definitely more worried between that and the colder weather and things spreading more quickly. So yeah, definitely taking more precautions,” Stern said.

The county health department said they don’t know where the six omicron patients picked up the virus. They are all said to be recovering at home with mild symptoms.

Rod Jenkins, director of Durham County Public Health said the variant doesn’t change the county’s approach to the pandemic but they are planning on getting more people tested.

“We are currently working on expanding our testing capabilities and we should be able to release that information soon,” said Jenkins.

While the county says there won’t be much of a change, there will be a change for students and employees at Duke Health and Duke University. They will be required to get their booster starting in January or as soon as they’re eligible.

“We need to be, continue to be flexible and adapt to follow the science,” said Katie Galbraith, president of Duke Regional Hospital.

She said the details regarding a deadline or consequences for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are still being sorted out.

“We really expect that to become the dominant strain as COVID cases continue to surge around the nation and again across the globe. So we’ve really worked closely with our infectious disease experts,” Galbraith said.

Duke and Durham County officials both believe finding omicron in every North Carolina county is just a matter of time and encourage people to get vaccinated, boosted and tested when needed.

“We would encourage other locales to really consider it already being there,” Jenkins said.

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