Omicron variant cases in Travis County found at UT Austin

State News

The South African doctor who alerted officials of the possibility of a new variant, later named omicron, said the “unusual but mild” symptoms were what caught her attention. (Photo: Getty Images)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The possible first cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant in Travis County have been found in three people at the University of Texas at Austin.

On Monday, Austin Public Health learned of the positive cases from the University of Texas Austin Health Services and UT says the individuals did not travel internationally — strongly indicating community transmission in Austin-Travis County. Additionally, the three cases are not linked to each other.

The three individuals were vaccinated but not boosted, according to APH.

“Our community learned first-hand the dangers new variants can pose. The delta variant arrived in the summer and is still in our community. Now we have the omicron variant,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority, in a release. “Our mission and our approach remain the same. Get vaccinated, get boosters, stay home if you are sick, wear your masks to protect yourself, your loved ones, and our hospital systems from this virus.” 

While omicron is believed to be highly transmissible based on early data, it’s not yet known whether it causes more severe illness. 

Austin Public Health continues to ask residents to wear masks, follow social distancing measures and get vaccinated/boosted. APH and major national health leaders/organizations urge vaccination, which provides protection from COVID-19 and its variants.

UT is not making any changes to campus COVID protocols but encourages students to get tested before going home for the break. School leaders also still urge students to get both vaccinated and boosted.

Ananya Bharadwaj, a UT sophomore, would like to see testing done on the other end as well. “I think especially after winter break making it mandatory to get tested before coming back on campus,” she told KXAN News.

Austin Public Health says it’s treating the potential omicron detection with more urgency than Delta and the original COVID strain.

“We don’t know a lot about it, and it’s spreading fast,” said Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes. That topic will be discussed further during APH’s Tuesday COVID-19 briefing.

UT offers testing and vaccinations on campus.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Community Stories