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Looking for Omicron

The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 may already be in the US, but has just yet to be identified, NPR reports.

Scientists in South Africa raised concerns about the variant last week, and Omicron was quickly labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization. It has since been identified in more than a dozen countries, according to the New York Times.

While Omicron has not yet been reported in the US, NPR says the assumption is that the variant is already present. "Testing has gotten a lot better in this country, but it's still not really where it needs to be," NPR's Rob Stein says on All Things Considered.

Stein adds that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked labs in the US to use a particular PCR test that can distinguish the Omicron and Delta SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Additionally, Francis deSouza, the CEO of Illumina tells the Financial Times that the Thanksgiving holiday in the US may have slowed the detection of the variant. "As labs come back after Thanksgiving, we are likely to see the presence of Omicron in the US, but ideally there should be a 24/7 sequencing operation," he says, adding that a national sequencing strategy for the US would also be beneficial.