First US case of omicron variant detected in California

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (AP) — A person in California became the first in the U.S. to have an identified case of the omicron variant of COVID-19, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

It comes as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new strain of the virus.

The Biden administration moved late last month to restrict travel from Southern Africa where the variant was first identified and had been widespread. Clusters of cases have also been identified in about two dozen other nations. The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was moving to tighten U.S. testing rules for travelers from overseas, including requiring a test for all travelers within a day of boarding a flight to the U.S. regardless of vaccination status. It was also considering mandating post-arrival testing.

Officials said those measures would only “buy time” for the country to learn more about the new variant and to take appropriate precautions, but that given its transmissibility its arrival in the U.S. was inevitable.

A statement from the CDC Wednesday said:

“The California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health have confirmed that a recent case of COVID-19 among an individual in California was caused by the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529). 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 was conducted at the University of California, San Francisco and the sequence was confirmed at CDC as being consistent with the Omicron variant. This will be the first confirmed case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant detected in the United States. 

On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified a new variant, B.1.1.529, as a Variant of Concern and named it Omicron and on November 30, 2021, the United States also classified it as a Variant of Concern. CDC has been actively monitoring and preparing for this variant, and we will continue to work diligently with other U.S. and global public health and industry partners to learn more. Despite the detection of Omicron, Delta remains the predominant strain in the United States.

The recent emergence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and general prevention strategies needed to protect against COVID-19. Everyone 5 and older should get vaccinated boosters are recommended for everyone 18 years and older.

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