Tri-State labs looking for omicron variant as travel restrictions go into effect

Virus Outbreak California
Posted at 8:17 PM, Nov 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-29 20:18:39-05

ERLANGER, KY — Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has implemented the latest travel restrictions connected to the new omicron variant of COVID-19.

Scientists in southern Africa discovered the variant, labeling it as a "variant of concern" — meaning there is a evidence the variant is a threat. Still, there are many unknowns.

President Joe Biden said the travel ban is an effort to buy time so experts here can learn more about the variant. He restricted travel from eight African countries Monday: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Scientists, though, have also detected the variant in Canada, part of Europe and Australia.

“It's going to move around the world," President Joe Bide said. "I think it's almost inevitable that there will be at some point that strain here in the United States."

At CVG in Erlanger, passengers tested and hedged their bets restrictions will not expand.

“That is the hope," traveler Keyur Parikh said. "We will have to see it changes — very fluid situation right now, as you know, so we will see what tomorrow brings."

RELATED: Tri-State doctor: Newly identified omicron variant 'changes nothing' locally right now

Gravity Diagnostics Vice President of Regulatory Clinical and Research Programs JP Canner said their team is playing a lead role in discovering when the variant will surface in the Tri-State.

“We should be able to quickly screen our specimens to look for those patterns,” Canner said.

They provide free drive-thru testing. Each week, they pull a sample of approximately 700 tests to see which variants are emerging, reporting those results to state health departments.

The Ohio Department of Health said Monday they are "aware of the B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant. At this time, we have not seen any cases in Ohio. We are closely monitoring developments regarding this variant.” The Indiana State Department of Health said no cases have been detected in the state either. The Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services did not respond by time of publication.

Canner said one critical key to containment will be accurate, quick mass testing.

“This way they can properly quarantine,” Canner said.

Back at CVG Airport, anyone landing in the Tri-State from another country must check in at a kiosk. There, they submit contact information and where they have traveled. The state of Kentucky tracks it.

In the background of all these protective measures, vaccine manufacturers are racing to see how effective the current formula will be against omicron.

RELATED: CDC strengthens COVID-19 booster recommendation due to omicron variant