Omicron Found in 12 States; More Cases Await Detection

At least two dozen cases of people infected with the highly mutated Omicron variant of the coronavirus had been reported in 12 states by Saturday morning.

Most of the cases appeared to be people who had traveled to South Africa recently, though the infected person in Hawaii had not traveled outside of his state, and, in Minnesota, a vaccinated man who had traveled to an anime convention in New York City tested positive. Regardless, health officials were bracing for the inevitable community spread of the variant.

None of the Omicron cases reported so far in the United States have resulted in serious illness, hospitalization or death.

Even as concerns about the Omicron variant intensified, top federal health officials said that for now the Delta variant remained a greater threat to Americans.

“I know the news is focused on Omicron, but we should remember that 99.9 percent of cases in the country right now are from the Delta variant,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a press briefing on Friday. “Delta continues to drive cases across the country, especially in those that are unvaccinated.”

About 95,000 cases were being reported in the United States every day, compared with about 12,000 per day six months ago. States in the Midwest are recording some of the biggest spikes, while New Hampshire, Michigan and Minnesota lead the country in recent cases per capita.

On Friday, state health officials confirmed three cases in Maryland, all in the Baltimore area. Two of the cases are from the same household and include a vaccinated individual who had recently traveled to South Africa and an unvaccinated person who was deemed a close contact. The third case is unrelated, and the patient, who was vaccinated, has no known recent travel history.

Officials in Philadelphia said that they had found one case, a man in his 30s. The sole case identified in Utah was a vaccinated individual who had just returned from South Africa. In Missouri, officials identified a case linked to domestic travel.

Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said that a fully vaccinated woman who had recently traveled to South Africa tested positive for the Omicron variant after being treated at an emergency department in northern New Jersey. She was in isolation with mild symptoms, officials said.

On Thursday, officials in New York State announced that they had confirmed five cases of the variant: a 67-year-old woman in Suffolk County who returned from South Africa; two residents of Queens; one resident of Brooklyn; and another person in New York City who had traveled recently. The vaccination status of most of the individuals remained unknown.

A vaccinated Colorado resident who had recently returned from southern Africa was that state’s first confirmed case. California reported a second case — the first being in San Francisco on Wednesday — in Los Angeles County. The infected person had been vaccinated and had traveled to South Africa in November.

The authorities in Nebraska on Friday said that of the six cases involving the Omicron variant found there, only one was in a vaccinated person. One of the infected people had returned from Nigeria on Nov. 23, they said, and the other five were likely exposed through household contact. None had required hospitalization.

An Oahu resident with no history of travel is the first Omicron case in Hawaii.

“This is a case of community spread,” the state’s department of health said in a news release. The individual had previously been infected with the coronavirus but was never vaccinated.

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