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Detecting omicron in Florida: How will it work?

'It doesn't take very long. It's a special test that's not done by a commercial lab,' Dr. Larry Bush says
COVID Testing
Posted at 4:16 PM, Dec 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 23:19:21-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in the U.S. was announced Wednesday, which medical experts said was inevitable.

RELATED: 5 things to know about omicron variant of COVID-19

The speed of the spread of the new strain is turning out to be a surprise to many.

What was first detected in a small group of nations in southern Africa less than a week ago is now in more than 20 countries.

Dr. Larry Bush
Dr. Larry Bush speaks about how the omicron variant is detected.

"As of this past week, 99 percent of the cases in the United States were [the] delta [variant]," said Dr. Larry Bush, a vaccine researcher in Wellington.

He said the current effort is to find more omicron cases in the United States.

Currently, dozens of labs around the country, including Florida, are now studying positive COVID tests, looking for the signs of the omicron variant.

RELATED: Omicron sparks concern in Florida

"It doesn't take very long. It's a special test that's not done by a commercial lab where we all get our lab tests or rapid test," Bush said. "The state looks at cases, and they take a certain percent from all over the country and all over the state, and they run tests for these variants, and it does not take very long."

Facebook Q&A: Omicron's potential impact in Florida

Air travel is suspected as the cause of the rapid spread around the world.

Medical experts expect air passengers unknowingly may accelerate the spread of the new variant in the U.S.

The rapid spread of omicron has led the White House and the Centers for Disease Control to consider more restrictions on international travel.

Among the considerations is testing 24 hours before returning to the U.S. and possibly more testing after arriving.

Linda Jelencovich of Super Travel of Palm Beach said it doesn't seem to be stopping people from traveling.

"People are tired of staying home," Jelencovich said. "They want to go."

Passengers at Palm Beach International Airport on Wednesday also seem willing to accept the restrictions.

"I think it's a good idea. It will keep the cases down," said Julie Hofmeister of Vero Beach.

"I don't think it's a terrible idea to have testing before you get here," said John Edelman who arrived from Philadelphia. "The last thing we want is to bring in variants rising in other countries."

Researchers are eager to learn more about the omicron variant in the coming weeks and determine if the current vaccines will offer protection against it.