At least five states in the United States have now reported cases of the virus that causes Covid-19’s omicron variant, as researchers start investigating whether the strongly mutated strain is more contagious and virulent.
On Thursday, at least nine cases were confirmed in Minnesota, Colorado, New York, Hawaii, and California. On Wednesday, California revealed the first omicron case in the United States, bringing the total number of reported cases to ten.
Minnesota health officials stated Thursday morning the second case of omicron in the United States, in a resident who recently returned from New York City, according to the state’s department of health.
According to the department, the man, who was fully vaccinated and has since rebounded, traveled to New York City to attend the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center Nov. 19-21. He began experiencing ailments shortly after his return and tested positive on Nov. 22.
Hours later, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis confirmed a third U.S. case in a woman who had recently returned from a trip to southern Africa. He stated at a news conference that the patient had been fully vaccinated but had not obtained a booster shot. Polis stated that she is experiencing mild symptoms and is isolating herself at home.
The governor stated that the extent of community transmission in the United States is unknown, but health officials believe it is “very small” in Colorado. According to Polis, the state screens wastewater and has yet to discover omicron in the analysis. Colorado also performs genetic sequencing on about 15% of its Covid tests to look for variants and hasn’t found any other omicron occurrences yet, he said.
“So if it was prevalent, we would know — it doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent,” Polis said.
Health officials in New York confirmed five cases Thursday evening, one in Suffolk County on Long Island and four in the New York City metropolitan area. The cases, according to New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, indicate that the variant is spreading in the community.
“This is not just people who are traveling to Southern Africa or to other parts of the world where omicron has already been identified,” Chokshi said.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told citizens that the discovery of multiple cases does not imply that the state will eventually return to the sweeping shutdowns levied during the pandemic’s start in March 2020.
“We are in a far better place, that people are informed. There’s not a panic,” Hochul said late Thursday night. “It is still a public health crisis, but does not have to be a crisis that leads to shutdown.”
It was unclear whether any of the New York cases were linked to the anime convention visited by the Minnesota citizen who tested positive. The convention event coordinator, Anime NYC, estimated that 53,000 people attended the three-day event.
The Hawaii Department of Health confirmed one case of omicron on the island of Oahu, moments later.
On Thursday evening, Los Angeles County revealed its first case of the omicron variant. On November 22, the person returned to Los Angeles County after traveling to South Africa via London.