First Confirmed U.S. Case of Omicron COVID Variant is in California

The first U.S. case of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed in California in a person who arrived in San Francisco from South Africa late last month.

According to the California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health, the individual "was a traveler who returned from South Africa on November 22, 2021. The individual, who was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving, is self-quarantining and has been since testing positive. All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative." Genomic sequencing by the University of California, San Francisco detected the variant.

Governor Gavin Newsom says it is not unexpected. "There's no reason to panic -- but we should remain vigilant,'' Newsom said. ``That means get vaccinated. get boosted. wear a mask indoors.''

Newsom confirmed that the person who tested positive for the Omicron variant is a San Francisco resident who began developing symptoms of COVID on Nov. 25, three days after returning to the U. S.

"This individual is doing well, mild symptoms,'' Newsom said. ``The people that this individual came into contact (with) have been tested and we look forward to more information coming out as appropriate.''

He said no close contacts of the individual have yet tested positive for the virus. Newsom noted that while fully vaccinated, the person had not yet received a booster shot, indicating that the person had received the shots more recently and likely was not yet eligible for a booster.

The Omicron variant was identified as a ``variant of concern'' by the World Health Organization on Friday after it was identified as responsible for surging COVID cases due to its large number of mutations, but research is still being done to determine if it is more resistant to existing vaccines and could lead to more serious illness.

The California Department of Public Health issued a joint statement in response to the case, saying: ``W must remain vigilant against this variant, but it is not a cause for panic. to help detect and prevent the spread of this new variant, the state of California is increasing COVID-19 testing at our airports for arrivals from countries identified by the CDC. We recognize that everyone is exhausted, and the news of a new variant can be overwhelming. it is important that we collectively focus on the things we know prevent the spread of COVID-19, and its variants. Individuals should (1) get vaccinated and boosted; (2) wear your mask in indoor settings; (3) get tested if you have symptoms; and (4) stay home if you are sick.''

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's top health official, said people should not be discouraged about the vaccines due to the patient who contracted Omicron being fully vaccinated.

"Does that mean the vaccines aren't working? We have been talking for months about the fact that vaccinations do one really, really important thing -- protect against severe disease, against hospitalization and death. and the evidence that an individual with omicron identified by sequencing actually has mild symptoms, is improving, is a testimony to the importance of the vaccination.''

Gov Newsom said the latest figures show that 92.1% of all Californians aged 18 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine.


(Photo Getty Images)

Photo: AFP via Getty Images

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