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The first Omicron COVID variant was found in San Francisco, California. The confirmed case was discovered after a person tested positive for the virus after they returned from South Africa, reports the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control (CDC).
Both the California Department and San Francisco public health departments confirmed the unnamed 50-year-old arrived entered the U.S. on Nov. 22, 2021, three days before scientists in South Africa announced the new variant was detected. The person developed symptoms a few days after their arrival.
Since much is unknown about the new variant’s transmissibility and how it affects patients, health officials warn against panic. Everyone in the country needs to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Those who have had their first series of injections need to have a booster shot. While America continues to push vaccinations, only half of the eligible adults have taken advantage of the free injections. The Delta variant remains a problem predominately in regions where the vaccination rates remain low.
Like Delta, Omicron is proven to infect fully vaccinated individuals. The patient in San Francisco had received two Moderna injections and no booster shot. They are experiencing mild conditions, which supports the importance of vaccinations. Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency explains:
Vaccinations do a really important thing: protect against severe disease, against hospitalization, and death.
Dr. Anthony Fauci agrees with Dr. Ghaly. Although the current vaccines were not designed to target variants like Delta or Omicron, there is “spillover protection.” Fauci advises everyone who was vaccinated at least six months ago and is eligible for a booster should not delay being boosted. Currently, the boosters are available to those at least 18. However, the CDC is likely to approve 16 and 17-year-olds to the booster eligibility list within days.
The White House is expected to reveal its updated COVID-19 response in light of the Omicron’s emergence. However, scientists remind everyone that remains unclear whether Omicron is more dangerous than COVID-19 and other strains that killed 5.22 million worldwide.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
NBC News: First U.S. case of omicron variant is found in California; by Erika Edwards and Elisha Fieldstadt
The New York Times: Fauci uses Omicron as a reason to press vaccines. By Jim Tankersley
The Washington Post: ‘We are pulling out all the stops’: White House details strategies to combat delta, omicron variants
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Charles Haynes’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Alan Levine’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License