New omicron cases identified in two Michigan counties

The Detroit News

Michigan cases of COVID-19's omicron variant have risen to eight after the state health department identified two additional cases.

According to information provided early Tuesday by Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the state health department, an omicron case has been identified for the first time in Macomb County. A second case of the variant has been found in Wayne County.

Michigan's first case of the omicron variant was detected Dec. 9 in a fully vaccinated Kent County resident more than a week after the variant was first reported in the United States on Dec. 1. 

The variant is now the dominant version of the virus in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in omicron's share of infections in only one week.

Much about the omicron variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness. Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing omicron infection but even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave an update Tuesday on the impact of the omicron variant amid already high COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations in Michigan. 

Whitmer did not issue any broad mandates or health orders related to COVID-19 at the Grand Rapids event, but urged people who have not been vaccinated to start the process and for those who received initial vaccines to get a booster.

Last week, Michigan's three largest universities announced students, faculty and staff will be required to receive a COVID-19 booster before the start of the next semester.

The University of Michigan and Michigan State and Wayne State universities cited the omicron variant as a factor in the decision to require boosters.

UM and MSU both have reported a case of the variant connected to their campuses.

Associated Press contributed.