The first U.S. case of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 was confirmed in San Francisco, federal and state health officials said Wednesday, confirming the belief that the newly designated “variant of concern” first identified in South Africa was already president domestically.
There are still no confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Southern California.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters at the White House Wednesday the patient who tested positive was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive on Monday. The unidentified person was fully vaccinated against COVID and experienced “mild symptoms” that were improving, Fauci said.
The person was in quarantine, and all close contacts have been contacted and all tested negative, according to Fauci.
“We knew that it was just a matter of time before the first case of Omicron would be detected in the United States,” Fauci said.
On Twitter, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the Omicron variant is likely present in other states in addition to California. “There’s no reason to panic — but we should remain vigilant,” Newsom wrote. “That means get vaccinated. Get boosted. Wear a mask indoors.”
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 case numbers in South Africa. The variant is believed to spread more easily 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.
State officials said Wednesday, however, they were encouraged that the patient who tested positive for the variant in San Francisco was fully vaccinated and developed only mild symptoms that are improving. That person was not hospitalized.
According to state figures, there were 574 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County as of Wednesday, up from 562 on Tuesday. The number of those patients in intensive care was 158, down from 165 a day earlier. The county on Wednesday reported another 18 COVID-19 deaths, raising the overall number of virus-related fatalities in the county to 27,184. Another 1,473 new cases were also confirmed, for a pandemic total of 1,528,586. The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in the county was 1.7% on Wednesday, a drop from Tuesday but still above last week’s rate of about 1%.
Ferrer told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that despite the appearance of the Omicron variant, no immediate changes to the Health Officer Order are anticipated that would tighten infection-control regulations. She said the county already has “really sensible precautions in place,” most notably the requirement for people to wear masks indoors and at large outdoor gatherings. She said if the county didn’t already have that mandate in place, “we’d be suggesting it” in response to the Omicron variant.
Ferrer said the county might make some changes to rules governing visitation and testing at skilled nursing facilities, particularly if Omicron is found to be more resistant to current COVID vaccines. The county could also potentially re-impose quarantine requirements for people who may have been exposed to COVID, regardless of vaccination status.
In the wake of Omicron, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday stepped up its vaccine recommendation, urging everyone aged 18 and over to get a booster shot. The CDC had earlier recommended the shots for those aged 50 and up, and only suggested it for younger adults.
According to the most recent figures, 82.5% of Los Angeles County residents 12 and over have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, and 74% are fully vaccinated. Of the county’s overall population of 10.3 million people, 71% received at least one dose, and 63% were fully vaccinated. Of the roughly 5.99 million residents who were fully vaccinated as of Nov. 16, 75,249 have subsequently tested positive for the virus, for a rate of 1.26%, Ferrer said. Of the vaccinated population, 2,528 have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.042%, and 422 have died, a rate of 0.007%.
1 comment for "1st US case of COVID Omicron variant in San Francisco; no SoCal cases yet"
The WHO skipped NU and XI when naming the new variant Omicron,
I guess they didn’t want to disgrace their masters.
I don’t see a problem naming it Xi,
That’s where it came from.