West News Wire: The first case of the omicron COVID-19 variant in the United States was detected in California, according to the health officials.
Leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said the individual is fully vaccinated and experiencing mild symptoms. The person returned to the U.S. from South Africa last week and is quarantining. All of the individual’s close contacts so far have tested negative, Fauci said at a press briefing.
Fauci urged Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and get a booster shot in response to the news.
The development was expected, as Fauci previously said it was “inevitable” the variant would end up in the U.S. More than 20 countries have documented the variant so far, and that number is expected to rise.
Still, the news is concerning to experts as the World Health Organization has designated omicron a “variant of concern,” saying it poses a very high global risk.
Much remains unknown about the variant, including whether it causes more severe disease or decreases vaccine efficacy, but experts expect to have more data on the variant in the next couple of weeks.
WHO says preliminary evidence suggests the variant has higher transmissibility – meaning it passes more easily from person to person – and can more readily reinfect people who have recovered from COVID-19.
These characteristics could “lead to further surges with severe consequences,” WHO said in an assessment, qualifying that “considerable uncertainty” still surrounds the data.
The delta variant makes up the vast majority of coronavirus cases in the U.S., which is averaging over 80,000 new infections each day.
President Joe Biden is expected to detail a COVID-19 plan for the winter months on Thursday.