Another Omicron Case is Detected in the US, This Time in a Minnesota Resident
One was a Colorado woman who returned from a trip to southern Africa, and the other was a Minnesota man who had been to New York City.
Two more Omicron cases are detected in the U.S.
A mobile Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Minnesota earlier this year.Credit…Liam James Doyle for The New York Times
More cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus were reported in the United States on Thursday. Minnesota health officials said that a man who lives in the state was infected with the Omicron. The man, who officials said had recently traveled to New York City, represents the second known case of the variant in the United States.
And a woman who lives in Colorado became the state’s first case of Omicron, state health officials said, after she recently returned from a trip to southern Africa for tourism.
Leaders in Minnesota said the discovery was unsurprising and credited robust disease surveillance systems for finding it.
“This news is concerning, but it is not a surprise,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement. “We know that this virus is highly infectious and moves quickly throughout the world. Minnesotans know what to do to keep each other safe now — get the vaccine, get tested, wear a mask indoors and get a booster.”
Much remains unknown about Omicron, including whether it is more transmissible and capable of causing more serious illness.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the man is a resident of Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis. He had been vaccinated, and he got a booster shot in early November. He is no longer feeling symptoms, the department said.
The man first developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22, shortly after traveling to New York City for the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center, the department said. Officials said the man had not been outside the United States recently. Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said on Thursday that everyone who attended the convention should get tested for the coronavirus, while Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city had activated its contact tracing program to track down people who attended the event. He added that “we should assume there is community spread of the variant in our city.”
The Minnesota man was tested for the coronavirus on Nov. 24. The state’s Public Health Laboratory determined late Wednesday night that he had the Omicron variant, officials said during a call on Thursday.
Minnesota officials said they were working with New York City and federal health officials to look into the case, and that the man was cooperating with case investigators, and following public health officials’ instructions to isolate himself.
One of his close contacts has since tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said, but because a rapid test was used, scientists have not yet determined whether that person, who is also in Minnesota, had the Omicron variant as well.
In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis said at a news conference that the resident infected with Omicron had recently returned from a trip to multiple countries in southern Africa. She had been fully vaccinated and was eligible for a booster shot but had not yet received it. She was experiencing mild symptoms and isolating at home.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Things to Know
The Omicron variant. The latest Covid-19 variant was identified on Nov. 25 by scientists in South Africa and has since been detected in more than 20 countries, including the U.S., which reported its first case on Dec. 1. Should you be concerned? Here are answers to common questions about this variant.
Biden’s winter Covid plan. As Omicron reaches the U.S., President Biden announced a new pandemic strategy that includes hundreds of family-centered vaccination sites, booster shots for all adults, new testing requirements for international travelers and insurance reimbursement for at-home tests.
New travel restrictions and lockdowns. Germany has announced tough restrictions on unvaccinated people, barring them from many aspects of public life. Japan, Israel and Morocco have stopped all foreign travelers, and Australia delayed reopening its borders. Here’s where U.S. citizens can travel right now and what to know about travel restrictions.
Shifting views on boosters among experts. For months, many public health experts have opposed plans to roll out Covid booster shots to all adults. But as Omicron gains ground, researchers are changing their minds, and now believe that the shots may offer the best defense against the new variant.
“This particular case is not community transmission in Colorado,” he said. “We don’t yet know the extent of community transmission within the United States. We know if community transmission is occurring in Colorado, it is very small.”
Genetic sequencing is required to determine which variant a patient has. In recent months the United States has greatly expanded sequencing, but the process takes time — at the Centers for Disease Control, typically about 10 days — to yield results. Currently, according to the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, about 14 percent of all positive P.C.R. tests in the U.S. are being sequenced.
On Wednesday, California health officials announced that a San Francisco resident had been infected with the Omicron variant — a finding they emphasized was inevitable, as they worked to contain alarm over the variant’s discovery in the United States.
The man in Minnesota “was getting ill even before we were hearing about Omicron from South Africa,” Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious disease director, told reporters on Thursday.
Though the new Omicron variant is grabbing headlines, officials warned that the earlier Delta variant of the coronavirus remains prevalent and is still spreading in the United States, posing a grave risk especially to unvaccinated Americans, who are much more likely than vaccinated people to become severely ill if they are infected.