Dec 3, 2021 - Health

Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state

Percentage of recent COVID-19 cases sequenced and shared
Data: GISAID; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Some states are much more likely to catch cases of the Omicron variant early on — including California and Minnesota, which did, in fact, find the first two confirmed U.S. cases.

The big picture: Omicron has thrust the U.S.'s genetic surveillance capabilities back into the spotlight. And the more cases sequenced, the better the chances of finding the variant before it takes off.

What they're saying: "Some parts of the country are sequencing a lot more and some are sequencing less," Céline Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at New York University and Bellevue Hospital told Axios.

  • "We have some parts of the country that are only sequencing 3% and that’s not nearly enough to be able to pick up a variant in those places," she added.

The big picture: The U.S. overall has vastly expanded its genetic sequencing capacity over the last several months. But looking at national numbers obscures the drastic variation” that overshadows the drastic variation between states.

  • However, the process is slow — a common problem in countries with a lot of samples to sequence, the New York Times reports. The CDC's sequencing process usually takes around 10 days to complete, and the timeline also varies by state.
  • But there are clues to which cases may be Omicron, and labs can expedite the sequencing of those samples, per the NYT.
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