UTAH (ABC4) – While the U.S. has not detected a case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 yet, an international database shows the percentage of covid samples tested for variants is low compared to many countries. This includes the U.K, Denmark and Canada, all which have detected this variant. 

Back in August, the Chief Scientist at Next-Generation Sequencing & Bioinformatics, Dr. Kelly Oakeson told ABC4 the goal was to sequence 75 percent of the positive COVID samples sent in. At the end of November, the Utah Department of Health reported around 20 to 25 percent of the positive samples are being tested. This translates to about 1,500 samples every other day.

Health department officials said it does the job and is much better than where they started, which was 2 percent. The department says they are testing enough to get a good grasp of what is spreading. 

The health department told ABC4 they cannot sequence all positive tests for a few reasons: 

  1. Logistics
  2. It’s expensive
  3. They may not need it to detect variants.

The GISAID Initiative has a global database of coronavirus genomes. On a state-by-state level, it ranks Utah in the top ten based on data collected over nearly two years. 

Dr. Oakeson said people can help by taking the right test. Rapid antigen tests are great for quick results, but these samples cannot be tested for variants, which is why officials say if you have the option, you should consider getting a PCR test, even if you’ve already tested positive. 

According to the Utah Department of Health, it takes an average of 10 days to get variant test results.