The San Bernardino County Public Health Department recently detected the COVID-19 Omicron BA.2 variant in San Bernardino County and is carefully monitoring its spread.
In the last 14 days, 99 percent of positive COVID-19 cases in the county sequenced were identified as Omicron. Of those cases, about 8.5 percent were of the BA.2 variant, the county said in a news release on March 25.
The new BA.2 variant has accounted for about 8 percent of Omicron cases throughout March.
Overall, the countyâs COVID-19 positivity rate remains below 4 percent, down from a high of 31 percent. New cases, deaths, and hospitalizations have dropped significantly, but the variant could still be a cause for concern.
Since the pandemic began in early 2020, there have been 565,284 confirmed coronavirus cases and 6,776 deaths in San Bernardino County as of March 25. In Fontana, there have been 70,017 cases and 692 deaths.
Dr. Michael Sequeira, the countyâs public health officer, said there are two primary ways that the department monitors the occurrence and spread of COVID-19 variants.
âThe first is by sequencing the virus from COVID-19 tests results,â he said. âThe sequence allows us to determine which variant may have caused that personâs infection. We try to ensure that we sample positive tests from across the county to get a good picture of what variants are circulating in our community.â
The second method is wastewater surveillance, which is conducted each week by a team of epidemiologists from the Department of Public Health.
âWe were one of the first counties to support wastewater testing in the state and we are working on expanding these efforts in the coming months,â Sequiera said. âTesting allows us to estimate how much virus is circulating as well as the specific variants that are present in our communities.â
Sequeira recommended people have antigen testing kits on hand in case they are exposed or have symptoms of COVID-19.
âAt-home rapid COVID-19 tests allow you to swab your own nose and get results in under 20 minutes,â Sequeira said. âThey are a useful and reassuring way for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated to traverse new variants. Please take measures to protect yourself and your family by having tests ready at home for when you may need them.â
Free over-the-counter antigen tests kits are available at the following locations:
â¢ San Bernardino County COVID-19 stationary testing sites
â¢ San Bernardino County libraries
â¢ State-supported COVID-19 testing locations
Proof of living, working, or attending school in San Bernardino County is required for a free test kit. Parents are encouraged to bring children to receive kits for the entire family.
To learn more about COVID-19 rapid antigen tests in the county, visit sbcovid19.com/rapidtests
The federal government also announced a second round of four free tests per household are available to order through the U.S. Postal Service at www.covidtests.gov.
For more information about COVID-19 testing or vaccine services, visit sbcovid19.com or call the county’s COVID-19 hotline at (909) 387-3911.