Southern California has the first confirmed case of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, a day after the nation’s first case was confirmed in San Francisco, Los Angeles County public health officials confirmed Thursday evening, Dec.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement on Thursday that the man returned to the area on November 22 after traveling to South Africa via London. Health officials said the infection was most likely related to travel.
The new variant, which has sent scientists to assess its severity, has so far been confirmed in nearly two dozen countries, but was first identified in South Africa. The LA County case came on the same day that several other cases were reported in the US, first in Minnesota and then in Hawaii and Colorado – and five in the New York City area.
The circumstances of those cases seemed to indicate that the variant had begun to spread.
The cases in San Francisco, Minnesota and Los Angeles County are all believed to be travel-related, with both patients from California having recently traveled to South Africa; The San Francisco patient had returned from South Africa on the same day that LA County traveled there. The Minnesota man had recently traveled to New York.
While much is unknown about this variant, it may spread more easily than others, including the delta variant — the coronavirus mutation that preceded Omicron — according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization has listed it as a type of concern.
“CDC is actively monitoring and preparing this edition,” the federal health agency said in a statement after the Minnesota case was confirmed. “CDC has expanded its capacity for genomic sequencing over the past nine months and we have more tools to fight this variant than we did last year.”
The CDC statement refers, in part, to the vaccines now available.
People in Minnesota and California who tested positive for the Omicron variant were all vaccinated.
Health officials said the Los Angeles County resident who tested positive for the Omicron variant was fully vaccinated — people in San Francisco and Minnesota were also vaccinated — and was self-isolating. The person’s symptoms are improving without medical care.
A small number of close contacts have also been identified and all have tested negative and had no symptoms so far, officials said.
“During epidemics we have always known that there will be more mutations, which will likely result in a more dangerous variant than the delta variant,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the county’s public health department.
“While we can’t know for sure about the effect of Omicron at this time,” he said, “the good news is that we already know how to slow and slow transmission using pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions.” How to reduce the spread.”
She again urged people to be vaccinated or promoted, and tested if they feel sick or have been in close contact with other people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Ferrer also reminded people to wear masks indoors and at large outdoor events.
Inspired by Omicron concerns, a new rapid-testing site will open Friday at Los Angeles International Airport. It will offer free – but voluntary – COVID testing for arriving international travellers.
Ferrer said, “We will be messaging international travelers about the need to follow federal quarantine and testing guidance, and any traveler who tests positive will need to be isolated, and their close contacts to be quarantined.” will be required.” ,
COVID testing at Tom Bradley International Terminal will be offered strictly on a voluntary basis, as there is no federal requirement to test inbound passengers.
“The federal government is highly recommending that people get tested,” Ferrer said. “We will have our health workers, as well, talk to people, making sure they understand the importance of testing. We are using rapid antigen test there so that people can know their result before leaving the airport.
While health officials have long said that vaccinating against the virus is the best way to end the pandemic, they have also said that masking plays an important role in stopping the spread.
Every time one type has emerged – and even at the start of the pandemic – health officials have differentiated between people who caught COVID-19 while traveling and those who contracted it due to community spread. which was of greater concern.
It’s potentially something to keep an eye on, as Omicron appears, at least for now, to dissipate quickly.
In South Africa, cases of the new coronavirus nearly doubled in a single day, to nearly 8,600, officials reported on Wednesday, and the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said Omicron has trailed the delta version among samples , which are now being analyzed at the genetic level.
The Delta version covers most cases in the US
On 26 November, President Joe Biden announced new travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries.
On Thursday, Biden announced a series of actions to protect the country from the coronavirus, particularly the more recent variants, during the winter. These include increasing the availability of booster shots in pharmacies, creating a new public awareness campaign – and giving boosters to 100 million eligible adults.
Jeff Ziants, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, said: “The President’s medical team believes that current vaccines from Omicron will provide some level of protection against serious disease, and those who have received boosters have been found to be even stronger.” Security is available.” A Monday statement. “As such, we urge all adults to get their booster shots and vaccinate themselves and their children, if they haven’t already.
“We will stand firm in our fight against this virus,” he said.
The San Francisco and Minnesota patients each had mild symptoms and, like their Los Angeles counterpart, were improving.
But because of uncertainty over Omicron’s seriousness, how easily it can spread from person to person, and whether it can survive vaccines – and if so, to what extent – scientists and world leaders have yet to figure it out. It means that as the world approaches the two-year anniversary of the pandemic.
The United States’ top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Wednesday that “any announcement of what will or will not happen with this version, I think, is too early to say.”
City News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story is breaking and will be updated.