Omicron variant of COVID-19 found in multiple US states – Community News
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Omicron variant of COVID-19 found in multiple US states

The ommicron variant of COVID-19, which went undetected in the US before the middle of this week, had been discovered in at least five states by late Thursday, showing again how mutations of the virus can travel the world with speed and ease.

Just a day after the first known US case was found in California, tests showed that the omicron variant had infected at least five people in the New York City metropolitan area, plus a Minnesota man who entered an anime convention in late November. Manhattan had attended.

NEW YORK CONFIRMS 5 CASES OF OMICRON CORONAVIRUS VARIANT

A Colorado woman who recently traveled to South Africa, a Hawaii resident with no recent travel history, and another California resident who traveled to South Africa last month were also infected with the variant, officials said.

Much is still unknown about omicron, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it can thwart vaccines and whether it makes people as sick as the original species.

Health officials in every state said there was no need for unnecessary alarm. But the spread of the cases, involving some people who hadn’t been away from home recently, meant the variant was probably already circulating domestically in some parts of the US.

“We have to assume there’s a lot more to that and it’s already a meaningful time here,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference with Governor Kathy Hochul.

The New Yorkers infected included a 67-year-old woman on Long Island who had recently traveled to South Africa, residents of Brooklyn and Queens, and another case that may have been related to travel. At least one person had received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but officials had no details on the vaccination status of the other four cases.

A mobile COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot site operates from a bus on 59th Street south of Central Park as patients wait on the sidewalk in New York City on Thursday, December 2, 2021.

A mobile COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot site operates from a bus on 59th Street south of Central Park as patients wait on the sidewalk in New York City on Thursday, December 2, 2021.
(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

In Minnesota, health officials said a man who had not traveled outside the US started developing symptoms the day after attending the Anime NYC 2021 convention in New York City. Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said it’s likely the man contracted COVID-19 during the convention, but officials weren’t sure.

New York officials said they were in the process of tracing attendees at the convention, which was held Nov. 19-21 and attracted about 50,000 people, according to organizers of the event. Participants were required to wear masks and demonstrate that they had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

It was held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center as New York City prepared to host the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and braced for the return of large numbers of tourists after the US opened up to vaccinated international travelers.

City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi urged people attending the event to get tested.

WHITE HOUSE SAYS REQUIREMENTS FOR DOMESTIC TRAVEL VACCINE ON THE TABLE BY OMICRON VARIANT

“This is not just due to people traveling to southern Africa or to other parts of the world where omicron has already been identified,” Chokshi said Thursday.

The Minnesota man began experiencing mild symptoms on Nov. 22. According to health officials in his home state, he had been vaccinated and given a booster vaccination in early November. He sought a COVID-19 test on Nov. 24 and his symptoms have subsided, officials said.

November 22 was the same day the infected person in the first California case returned to the US from South Africa. The California traveler, who had been vaccinated, developed mild symptoms and tested positive on Monday. The second person in the state did not require medical care and was also vaccinated.

The unvaccinated adult infected with the variant in Hawaii had contracted COVID-19 a year ago. The person is not currently hospitalized and had “mild to moderate” symptoms, including headaches, body aches and coughing, said Hawaii epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble.

She wouldn’t identify the patient any other way to say that the person lives on the island of Oahu.

Omicron is classified by the World Health Organization as a “variant of concern,” as scientists try to determine how it might compare to the predominant delta variant in terms of transmissibility and severity. Scientists are also studying the extent to which existing vaccines and therapies protect against ommicron.

Scientists in South Africa reported it first, but the samples came from several countries in southern Africa. And health officials in the Netherlands now say it was found there before its detection in South Africa.

With air travel comfort returning, it’s inevitable that new variants like omicron will spread from country to country and state to state, said Professor Danielle Ompad, an epidemiologist at New York University’s School of Global Public Health.

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“We shouldn’t panic, but we should be concerned,” she said.

Hochul said the case involving the Minnesota visitor underscored the need for anyone eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive a booster shot if they have not already done so.

“There’s one way to go about this: New Yorkers, get vaccinated, get a boost and prepare,” the Democrat said.

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