Dr. Memark talks about the Omicron variant

Janet Memark speaks at Healthy Start meeting used in article about COVID cases in CobbJanet Memark speaks at Healthy Start meeting (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Cobb County posted a youtube video last Wednesday with the latest update on COVID-19 from Dr. Janet Memark, District Health Director for Cobb & Douglas Public Health.

“Right now we’re trying to gauge how the holidays will affect us,” she said. We had a lot of people traveling over the holidays, and … I understand there were record numbers of people that have been traveling, so case numbers right now, we are seeing a few places around the state having a slight increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations.”

“For Cobb, we never really went all the way down,” she said. “So we’re still at 168 cases per 100,000. And this is from yesterday’s numbers. So that still remains in high transmission.”

She said the percent positive in testing has increased also, meaning that a higher percentage of the people in the county who are tested have COVID.


“(We are) still at 4.8%, which is you know, less than five and definitely less than 10,” Dr. Memark said. “But definitely not trending in the right direction, considering all the other news is happening.”

“Let’s talk about Omicron,” she said. “Omicron is another variant, now a Variant of Concern, as per the World Health Organization.”

Dr. Memark said there are more things we don’t know about it than what we do know.

“We know right now is it has 50 mutations on this virus,” she said. “And 30 of those on the S (spike) protein. Some of you who were following this know the significance of the S protein has to do with our vaccines, first of all, and our immune system. So that’s what we’re concerning to folks.”

“There is a possibility that it is more transmissible and that it may evade our immune systems and the vaccines,” Dr. Memark said. “So what we do know is that it spread rapidly in South Africa. Now, the vaccination rate in South Africa is very different from what we see here. So it’s not really comparing apples to apples at this point.”

She said that the differences in vaccination rates between South Africa and the U.S. make it difficult to compare and that we also don’t know if it’s a milder or more severe variant.

Cobb County Communications Director Ross Cavitt asked Dr. Memark if our current tests would identify whether a case of COVID was the Omicron variant.

She said yes, that the newer tests do genetic sequencing, so the tests that are currently being used can differentiate between the variants.

As a follow-up to another question from Cavitt, she said the rapid tests will probably not identify a COVID case by variant, so only the PCR tests will differentiate variants for certain.

Watch the complete presentation