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Why it took so long to find the omicron variant in the U.S.

Experts said ‘just stupid stuff’ stopped the U.S. from finding the omicron variant

Patients wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in New York on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.
Patients wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot at a mobile vaccination station on 59th Street below Central Park in New York on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. The United States struggled to find the omicron variant before other countries due to testing and sequencing problems. Or, as some experts said, “just stupid stuff.”
John Minchillo, Associated Press

The United States struggled to find the omicron variant before other countries due to testing and sequencing problems. Or, as some experts said, “just stupid stuff.”

Eric Topol, the founder and director of Scripps Research Translational Institute in California, told STAT News that the county has a problem collecting COVID-19 samples.

  • “Even though we’ve increased sequencing in recent months, we still have a sampling issue,” he told STAT News.
  • “It all goes back to the same theme from the beginning of this pandemic,” he said. “We don’t have unity in this country, we have a balkanized, well, everything.”

Amy Mathers, associate director of clinical microbiology at the University of Virginia Health, said that “it’s really just stupid stuff” that has stopped the U.S. from finding the variant.

  • “We tried to and are still lobbying for a system where people can send us positive samples directly,” said Mathers. “But the problem was it was hard to find a way to log them into the public health system. The forms were just too confusing for the hospitals.”

South Africa researchers announced the discovery of the omicron variant over Thanksgiving weekend, as I wrote for the Deseret News. The variant reportedly has dozens of mutations that could help the variant evade the COVID-19 vaccines and cause reinfection.