The Oahu resident – an adult under 65 – has tested positive for the variant with mild to moderate symptoms and has previously been infected with COVID-19, but has never been vaccinated. State health officials said the individual had no recent travel history, indicating spread in the community.
The news came a day after the United States announced its first known case of the variant in an individual from California who had recently traveled to South Africa. Today, omicron was also confirmed in a man who attended an anime convention in New York in late November.
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi tweeted this afternoon: “While this is concerning, it’s not necessarily surprising from our previous briefings with health officials. We will continue to work with the experts to learn more about this #variant. “
The World Health Organization has listed omicron as a “Variant of Concern”.
“This is not a reason for panic, but it is a reason for concern,” state health director Dr Elizabeth Char said in a press release. “It’s a reminder that the pandemic is underway. We need to protect ourselves by getting vaccinated, wearing masks, distancing ourselves as best we can and avoiding large crowds. “
State health officials said diagnostic lab services on Monday identified a test sample with a molecular index indicating the possibility of the omicron variant. Today, the lab confirmed the omicron variant was positive in the Oahu resident’s sample using accelerated whole-genome sequencing.
Contact tracing is ongoing, according to state epidemiologist Dr Sarah Kemble, who had no further information on how many contacts or where the Oahu resident had visited.
Kemble said the resident is currently in isolation and still being watched, but his symptoms so far have included headaches, body aches and cough.
She said there were still many unknowns about the omicron variant, but today’s news is “cause for caution” and that the layered mitigation strategies, including masking, physical remoteness, vaccinations and reminders, remain the same.
When asked, Kemble said there are likely more cases in Hawaii that have yet to be identified.
In the past, DOH typically needed 7-10 days to get genomic sequencing results, Kemble said, but was able to get this one within days using a new platform. form that allowed him to identify the omicron variant today.
“Our surveillance system is working,” Kemble said in a press release. “This announcement reminds us to be extremely careful to protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially during the holiday season. “
So far, the omicron variant has been detected in at least 23 countries and at least three other states, including California, New York and Minnesota.
Editor’s Note: This story is still in development and will be updated as more information becomes available.