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6 cases of omicron COVID-19 variant detected in Maricopa County

The omicron variant is now in Maricopa County.

Health officials say they’ve identified six COVID-19 cases involving the latest strain of the virus.

None of the patients, who range in age from their late teens to their 60s, was traveling internationally recently. The six cases also occurred in three unrelated clusters of individuals, which indicates that omicron is now circulating in Maricopa County, according to Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, the county’s medical director of disease control.

At least five of the six individuals were fully vaccinated before testing positive for the omicron variant, a sign that the latest strain may impact the vaccinated or people who previously had COVID-19 more than earlier iterations of the virus, Sunenshine said. It’s still unclear if the sixth individual was vaccinated or not — health officials said they’re still researching the case.

However, none of the patients has reported serious illness or been hospitalized, which Sunenshine said indicates the vaccine did its job.

“We think that the omicron variant is probably going to affect people who have been fully vaccinated or who had disease previously, more than other strains,” she said. “But it still works really, really well to keep people out of the hospital and away from serious illness.”

The omicron variant was first identified in Arizona last week, when Yavapai County Community Health Services in north-central Arizona confirmed the first known case in the state.

Sunenshine said it’s critical for all eligible Maricopa County residents to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as they’re able, and for residents to wear masks when in public.

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Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.