Second omicron variant of COVID-19 reported in the US by the CDC

Coronavirus

Omicron, the latest COVID-19 variant of concern designated by the World Health Organization, gets its name from a letter in the Greek alphabet. (Photo: Getty Images)

(WFXR) — America’s second confirmed COVID-19 case resulting from the omicron variant has been discovered in Minnesota, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC announced on Thursday, Dec. 2 that it is working with the Minnesota Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to investigate this case.

The individual — identified by health officials as a Minnesota resident — developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22 and got tested for the virus on Nov. 24. Even though the person has since recovered, the CDC says they traveled to New York City and attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19 through Nov. 21.

“CDC has been actively monitoring and preparing for this variant. We have been working closely with Minnesota’s Department of Health and will continue to work diligently with other U.S. and global public health and industry partners as we learn more. CDC has expanded its capacity for genomic sequencing over the past nine months and we have more tools to fight the variant than we had at this time last year from vaccines to boosters to the prevention strategies that we know work including masking in indoor public settings, washing your hands frequently and physical distancing. These methods work to prevent the spread of COVID-19, no matter the genetic sequence.”

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The only other omicron variant of the coronavirus confirmed in the U.S. so far has been in California, which involved a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22. The CDC made the announcement about that patient on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

The CDC recommends people follow COVID-19 prevention strategies, such as getting vaccinated if you are age 5 or older, getting a booster shot if recommended, getting tested if you have virus symptoms, and staying home if you are sick.

You can read the full statement released by the Minnesota Department of Health below:

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today announced that its Public Health Laboratory has found the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as Omicron in a specimen from a Minnesota resident with recent travel history to New York City.

The variant was found through the MDH variant surveillance program, which is one of strongest surveillance programs in the nation. Having a robust virus surveillance system in place allowed MDH to quickly identify Omicron once it entered the state and made it more likely that Minnesota would be among the first states to find the variant.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, Minnesota’s nation-leading genome sequencing infrastructure and strong testing network have allowed the state to quickly track the COVID-19 virus and better understand its spread. Today, those tools detected a case of the Omicron variant in Minnesota,” said Governor Tim Walz. “This news is concerning, but it is not a surprise. 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. Together, we can fight this virus and help keep Minnesotans safe.”

While Omicron is classified by the World Health Organization as a Variant of Concern, scientists are still working to determine how it may compare with the predominant Delta variant in terms of transmissibility and disease severity. Scientists also are studying the degree to which existing vaccines and therapies protect against Omicron.

According to Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm, this new finding underscores the importance of continued efforts by all Minnesotans to limit the spread of COVID-19 in any form.

“We still have more to learn about Omicron, but the most important thing we can do right now is to use the tools we have available to make it as hard as possible for this virus to spread,” Commissioner Malcolm said. “In addition to vaccination and boosters, we can slow the spread of this variant and all COVID-19 variants by using the tried-and-true prevention methods of wearing masks, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate.”

The person with the Omicron variant is an adult male, is a resident of Hennepin County, and had been vaccinated. The person developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22 and sought COVID-19 testing on Nov. 24. The person’s symptoms have resolved.  The person spoke with MDH case investigators and reported traveling to New York City and attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19-21. The person was advised to isolate from others. Minnesota epidemiologists will continue to investigate in collaboration with New York City and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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