BELLINGHAM, Wash. — King County announced five more confirmed cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 on Friday night. That's a total of six cases in King County and nine total in the state. 

County health officials expect the number of confirmed omicron cases to rise in the coming weeks. 

Whatcom County's first omicron case was confirmed Friday, according to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). 

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The man who tested positive for the new variant is in his 30s and fully vaccinated, according to the DOH. He is currently in isolation. 

Omicron was first confirmed in Washington on Saturday, Dec. 4. Three positive cases were identified in Pierce, Thurston and King counties. 

The omicron variant likely spreads more easily than other variants, according to the CDC. Scientists don't know if the variant causes more severe disease than other variants, or is more resistant to currently available vaccines. 

Current vaccines are expected to protect against omicron, although breakthrough infections are possible, the DOH said. 

“The presence of Omicron in our county really highlights the importance of getting vaccinated, and getting a booster,” said Whatcom County Health Department’s Communicable Disease and Epidemiology Manager Cindy Hollinsworth. “Breakthrough infections happen, but vaccines are still the best defense we have against this virus and all its variants.”

The patient from King County did not report recent travel, suggesting the variant is already spreading in western Washington, according to health officials. 

The omicron variant was identified in Washington through PCR testing and genomic sequencing, according to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). The state has increased its lab capacity to detect genetic markers associated with new and existing variants.

Health officials said in a press conference they expect more omicron cases to be confirmed in western Washington in the coming days.