First US case of Omicron Covid variant identified in California

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The first confirmed case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in the United States has been identified in California.

The variant was detected in a traveler who returned from South Africa on November 22, said Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to Joe Biden.

“We knew it was only a matter of time before the first case of Omicron was detected in the United States,” Fauci said.

'Matter of time': Fauci confirms first US case of Omicron - video
‘Matter of time’: Fauci confirms first US case of Omicron – video

The person, who was fully vaccinated but had not received a booster, tested positive on Monday and had mild symptoms that were improving, officials said. The person agreed to remain in quarantine and all of the individual’s close contacts have been made. They tested negative.

The identification by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) comes as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new variant.

At least 23 other countries have reported infections with Omicron, according to the World Health Organization.

The Biden administration decided late last month to restrict travel from southern Africa, where the variant was first identified and had spread. Clusters of cases have also been identified in around two dozen other countries.

The CDC is preparing to tighten US testing rules for travelers arriving from abroad, including requiring a test for all travelers within one day of boarding a flight to the United States, regardless of or their vaccination status. He also plans to impose tests after arrival.

Officials said the measures would only “buy time” for the country to learn more about the new variant and take appropriate precautions, but given its transmissibility, its arrival in the United States was inevitable.

Much remains unknown about the variant and how he reacts to vaccines.

“Any statement of what will or will not happen with this variant, I think it’s too early to say,” Fauci said.

He said Americans should continue to follow public health advice to get vaccinated and receive their boosters. “If you look at the things we recommended, they’re the same,” Fauci said.

The variant was found in California by genomic sequencing at the University of California at San Francisco, and the CDC confirmed it to be compatible with the Omicron variant.

“We will likely see this scenario reoccur several times across the country in the days or weeks to come,” said Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, attributed the identification of the variant to the state’s “large-scale testing and early detection systems” and said it was likely already in other states as well.

“There is no reason to panic, but we must remain vigilant. It means getting vaccinated. Be boosted. Wear a mask inside, ”he tweeted.

Detection of the Omicron variant in California comes as cases, hospitalizations and deaths have declined in the state over the past two weeks. In California, 67.7% of residents five years and older are vaccinated, but the virus continues to strain public health systems in some areas. In Fresno County at the end of last month, hospitals were “consistently above 100% of capacity,” forcing patients to wait hours or even days for a bed.

“Between now and next year, we could be facing a very difficult winter,” Rais Vohra, acting health officer for Fresno County, said at a press conference last month.

The dominant variant in the United States is still the Delta strain, which has caused a new wave of cases across the country over the summer.

Public health officials continue to urge Americans to get vaccinated, including booster shots, which they say are the best protection against the virus.

“With this news of the Omicron variant, there are more questions than answers at this point,” said Lisa Almaguer, spokesperson for the Butte County, Calif., Public health department. “The information does not change the current recommendations. For the variants, the best thing people can do to limit the spread is to get the vaccine and if you haven’t received the booster, now is the time to get a boost.

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