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Expanded Union County Testing Capabilities Continue to Lead the Way in Fight Against COVID-19

County remains at the forefront of testing and vaccination as first case of Omicron variant is identified

Union County, NJ – The Union County COVID-19 Partnership Lab at Kean University, the first County and academic run lab in the nation, has recently expanded testing protocols to include detection of the Omicron variant. Union County has updated sequencing processes for all test samples collected through mobile clinics and permanent testing sites as variants are identified. On December 3, the Partnership Lab at Kean began sequencing for the Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa. This week, the proprietary lab sequenced and identified the first case of the Omicron variant among positive samples tested through the Union County run COVID-19 testing programs.

From the onset of the pandemic in March of 2020, COVID-19 testing done through Union County mobile clinics and permanent testing sites has been consistently updated to identify new variants in samples that are found to be positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has proven to be more contagious and thus, easily transmissible, adding to the many moving parts in our battle against the pandemic,” said Union County Commissioner Board Chairman Alexander Mirabella.  “We strongly urge residents to get tested if they have been exposed and to get their vaccine or booster as soon as possible.”

 “The Board of County Commissioners continues to provide residents with opportunities for testing and has recently increased the number of permanent vaccination sites within Union County so that residents are able to get tested when necessary,” said Commissioner and Chair of the Public Safety Committee Sergio Granados. “Currently, the positivity rate in the State is trending up towards levels seen 12 months ago. Easy access to both testing and vaccination is key to keeping Union County residents safe as we continue to navigate COVID-19 and its variants. Research shows that vaccines provide protection against possible infection and subsequent transmission as well as lowers the rates of hospitalizations due to COVID-19.”

As part of the efforts to identify possible cases of the Omicron variant within Union County and in addition to current analysis, COVID-19 positive test samples going back 30 days from when the new variant was identified were pulled and re-sequenced.

To date, the Omicron variant which was first identified in South Africa, has been detected in 77 countries worldwide and in over 30 states within the U.S. One of the identifying factors is the existence of an S-gene dropout in a spike protein. An S-gene dropout is not indicative of the Omicron variant, however all positive results of the Omicron variant have been identified as containing the S-gene dropout.

Union County offers two permanent testing sites, located at Kean University in Union and the Gerry B. Green Building in Plainfield. All results are analyzed through the Union County COVID-19 Partnership Lab at Kean University. For hours of operations, residents can visit: https://ucnj.org/covid19/testing/covid19testing/.

Appointments at Union County vaccine sites can be booked online by creating an account at ucnj.org/vax. Residents looking to visit the Immunization Clinic for a free COVID-19 vaccine can walk in Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

For information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including the Union County COVID-19 Test Center at Kean University, the Mobile Test Unit, vaccination information, emergency food distribution and other support services, visit ucnj.org/covid19. General information about COVID-19 is available through the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.

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For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

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