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While some patients had recently traveled to southern Africa, where the variant was first detected, others had no travel history, indicating community transmission is underway in the United States.
“We absolutely have a widespread community in this country,” Dr Anthony Fauci told Bloomberg Television on Friday. “We don’t know how many of them, but there is no doubt that there is community spread. “
Scientists and public health officials are still collecting data on whether omicron is more transmissible, better evades immune protection from vaccines, and / or causes more severe disease than other variants.
Those who tested positive in the United States all had mild to moderate symptoms and none of the patients have been hospitalized so far, according to the most recent information from state public health departments. However, mild cases of Covid can progress to more serious illness over time.
Many people who tested positive in the United States were fully vaccinated. At least two of the immunized patients had not yet received a booster, but another person had received their extra dose. And in at least one case, a person who had previously recovered from Covid tested positive for omicron.
While the handful of cases in the United States provide no definitive answer on the omicron, the World Health Organization said on Friday that the first data suggests the virus is more contagious. And South African scientists have published a study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, which found that omicron carries a higher risk of re-infecting people who have already caught Covid than previous variants.
Although some of those who tested positive for omicron were fully vaccinated, the fact that they developed mild symptoms suggests that the injections still offer protection against serious illness from the variant, health officials said. Americans. Fauci said during a White House briefing on Covid on Friday that laboratory studies indicate that booster injections increase antibody protection against a range of variants.
“There is every reason to believe that if you get the vaccine and boosted, you would at least have some degree of cross-protection,” said Fauci, “most likely against serious disease, even against the omicron variant. “
“The evidence that an individual with omicron identified by sequencing is in fact showing mild symptoms is improving, I think this speaks to the importance of vaccinations,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Secretary of Health and of Social Services.
California confirmed a second case of omicron in the Los Angeles area on Thursday. The adult was also fully vaccinated and had recently returned from South Africa via London, according to the city’s health service. The person’s symptoms are improving without medical attention, officials said.
“This infection is most likely travel related,” the Los Angeles County Public Health Department said. The department, citing privacy concerns, would not disclose the person’s age or recall status when asked by CNBC on Friday.
The Minnesota resident received a booster shot before attending the convention in New York City, Minnesota public health spokesman Doug Schultz told CNBC on Friday.
Gov. Jared Polis told residents at a press conference Thursday that health officials believe community spread to be low in Colorado at this time. Health officials have yet to detect an omicron by analysis of the sewage, and they have yet to detect a second case by genetic sequencing.
“So if it was prevalent we would know – that doesn’t mean it’s non-existent,” Polis said.
“This is a case of community spread,” the department said in a statement.
“None of the three people are hospitalized,” Governor Larry Hogan said in a press release.
The Missouri State Department of Health has not provided information on the person’s age, vaccination history, or symptoms. CNBC has contacted state health authorities for more information.
A 67-year-old woman from Suffolk County tested positive after a recent trip to South Africa, according to Governor Kathy Hochul. The patient had a history of vaccination, but it is not clear if she was fully immune or if she was boosted. The woman presented with mild symptoms, including headache and cough.
Two people also tested positive in New York’s Queens neighborhood, and another person tested positive in Brooklyn, but their vaccination history was unknown Thursday night. Another traveler has also reportedly tested positive in the city, although the governor has provided no further information.
CNBC has contacted the New York City Health Department to request more details on the immunization status and symptoms of people who test positive for omicron.
New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi told the public Thursday the cases indicated there was community spread in the state.
“It’s not just people traveling to southern Africa or other parts of the world where omicron has already been identified,” Chokshi said.
Officials said the person who tested positive was a senior who recently returned home to Utah after traveling to South Africa.
The person is fully vaccinated and has shown only mild symptoms. They received treatment with monoclonal antibodies.