Pete McGinn’s diagnosis of COVID-19 surprised him as his symptoms were mild. He was even more surprised to learn that his infection was caused by a new variant: the omicron.
“When I first heard it, I thought he was a supervillain,” said McGinn, of Minneapolis, who tested positive for the virus after a recent trip to New York City for one. anime convention. “It sounds like a bad guy name to me and so I guess it fits that since it’s a virus. “
The 30-year-old product analyst for UnitedHealth Group discovered just before Thanksgiving that he had been infected with COVID-19. He said he was asymptomatic, fully vaccinated and received a booster in the first week of November.
McGinn’s infection was one of the first cases involving the omicron variant to be identified in the United States, and he spoke about it over the weekend – to the New York Times and other national media because he didn’t like “the stigma of COVID” and wanted to encourage others to take vaccinations seriously.
“I’m very pro-science, pro-vaccine,” he said. “I believe the booster and the vaccine help reduce the symptoms that I have had. And I would definitely recommend anyone, when they can, to receive the booster. “
Omicron was first reported on November 24 in South Africa, where it has spread rapidly. The variant sparked another wave of pandemic uncertainty – and some travel bans – around the world as researchers rushed to learn more about it.
Dr Anthony Fauci told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that omicron appears to be less dangerous than the dominant delta variant, which results in hospitalizations across the country. But he urged caution “before determining that it is less severe or does not really cause any serious illness, comparable to the delta,” he said.
Health officials continue to say that the vaccination and boosters help protect against delta and other variants like omicron.
The Minnesota Department of Health announced on Dec. 2 that its lab had found omicron “from a Minnesota resident who recently traveled to New York.” The state’s variant watch program made Minnesota among the first states to discover the variant, now confirmed in a dozen states. California reported it first on Wednesday and Minnesota became the second confirmed state on Thursday.
After the health department released the information, McGinn said, he saw people blaming the convention, Anime NYC 2021, and sharing anti-vaccine remarks.
“A lot of things were like, ‘See, vaccines don’t work.’ But in my opinion, they absolutely work because they reduce the number of people hospitalized, ”he said, noting that many people in hospitals are not vaccinated. “You could still get COVID, but it reduces the symptoms based on my experience. “
McGinn said 15 of the 30 people he socialized with during the convention – which drew up to 50,000 people – also tested positive for COVID-19. All of his friends have been fully vaccinated, he said.
Health officials haven’t determined which variant they all had, he said, and he’s not sure when he got infected. He believes it happened outside of the convention because most of the attendees were masked.
McGinn visited New York on November 18 and returned on November 22. Prior to that, he had traveled to Texas for a work trip on Nov. 10 and returned home to Minneapolis three or four days later, he said.
He had planned to spend Thanksgiving with his mother in the northern suburb of Champlin, but McGinn learned on November 23 that one of his friends at the anime convention had tested positive for COVID-19, with an asymptomatic case.
McGinn had already taken a quick home test and did so immediately. It’s come back positive. A test at the Minneapolis Convention Center later that night also came back positive, so he began to self-quarantine.
“It upset me because I really didn’t feel sick,” he said.
McGinn said he had a slight runny nose, a little cough that he thought was his asthma and that he was exhausted – but he figured it was from four days in New York walking 15 miles by day around convention and town with friends, dinner and singing karaoke.
The Department of Health called him for a routine contact tracing on November 29 or 30. But on December 1, he said, he got another call from health officials saying he had the omicron variant.
They asked for the names of the people he was with and where they lived, so agencies in those states could test the variants.
McGinn attributes her rapid recovery and mild illness to her vaccination and recall. He said he was never concerned because he took steps to protect himself and others.
“Honestly, I felt good the whole time,” he said. “I’m more interested in seeing the results, like more people get that and their reaction. “
Writer Jeremy Olson and The Associated Press contributed to this story.