KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Exactly one year after UT Medical Center received its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Knox County Health Department said Friday that the first local case of the omicron variant has been detected.

County officials received confirmation of the variant’s presence in the county on Thursday. Health officials in Nashville also reported their first local omicron case Thursday.

“With the omicron variant spreading quickly across the country, and already present here in Tennessee, we knew it was just a matter of time until this variant was detected in Knox County,” said Director of Communicable and Environmental Disease and Emergency Preparedness Roberta Sturm. “While the variant is new, the strategies to protect yourself and your loved ones are not. As we head into the holidays, take every opportunity you can to keep yourself and those around you healthy.”  

Based on analysis of preliminary data from South Africa, where the new variant was first detected, the variant appears to cause less severe disease than previous versions of COVID-19 but also seems to be more easily transmitted than past strains.

A person in California became the first in the United States to have an identified case of the variant on Dec. 1. The emergence of the variant has caused some countries to reinstitute travel restrictions.

The Health Department urges Knox County residents to receive the COVID-19 vaccination to protect against the virus and says fully vaccinated individuals ages 16 and older should receive a booster dose. For information on getting vaccinated at the Health Department, click here or call 865-215-5555.  

KCHD encourages anyone who has symptoms or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 to get tested. A map of testing locations in Knox County can be found here.