UArizona identifies 1st cases of omicron variant on campus

The University of Arizona says its researchers have identified the first cases of the omicron variant on the school's campus.

According to a news release, the discovery was made at about 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 21 using genomic testing.

"Researchers identified the omicron variant in seven samples within 10 hours of the UArizona Genetics Core Lab forwarding them," read a portion of the news release.

The university says it has begun the process of contact tracing.

The White House announced Tuesday that Arizona is one of a handful of states expected to receive additional resources this week.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is deploying ambulances to help in quickly taking patients from full hospitals to facilities with open beds. Twenty paramedics are heading to Arizona, according to the news release.

The state’s largest hospital systems have warned that they are under immense strain caring for patients with COVID-19 or who delayed care for other illnesses. With a shortage of nurses, they may have to ration care.

The omicron variant, now the dominant variant nationwide, is seen as much more transmissible. Scientists don’t yet know whether omicron causes more serious disease, but they do know that vaccination should offer strong protections against severe illness and death.

Arizona reported 2,395 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 223 more deaths Tuesday. The daily death toll hasn’t been that high since February. Hospitalizations for the virus statewide came in at 2,539.

MORE: Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

The state’s pandemic totals now stand at 1,341,377 cases and 23,742 deaths.

Arizona’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases decreased over the past two weeks, going from 4,038.1 on Dec. 5 to 2,914.6 on Sunday. However, the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths increased in that same time frame from 51 to 68.

Meanwhile, the Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday will include consideration of a mask mandate. The proposed resolution would require people to wear masks in indoor public spaces where they cannot properly social distance.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.


In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

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