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Omicron variant detected in Minnesotan who traveled to NYC Anime Convention

Minnesota’s first confirmed case of the Omicron variant is the second instance discovered in the United States.
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 10:00 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2021 at 10:12 PM CST
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KEYC) - Minnesota’s first confirmed case of the Omicron variant is the second instance discovered in the United States.

The person with the variant is an adult male according to the Minnesota Department of Health and was traveling from New York.

“While this is clearly something to take seriously, omicron being all over the world, it is not a reason for panic, as with the other new variants we’ve managed. We’re still at a stage where there is a lot we need to learn about omicron. There’s more that we don’t know than what we do know,” explained Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

Dr. Matthew Binnicker with Mayo Clinic says while the latest variant is present in the United States, it is not yet widespread.

“I think that Delta is probably still predominant, but that based on what we know about this virus, over the next two to four weeks we’ll learn whether the Omicron variant will out-compete the Delta or not,” Binnicker said.

Health experts agree that despite a lack of information on the Omicron variant, the best defense is vaccination.

“People who are vaccinated can test positive and they could be a source for mutations to arise, but that chance is 75 to 85% less than if you’re unvaccinated,” Binnicker added.

Doctors say standard testing won’t unveil the specific variant, scientists have to perform further analysis.

“It’s not going to tell a patient or an individual whether they have omicron or delta or some other variant,” Binnicker stated.

Gov. Tim Walz says the state will continue to monitor the situation but will not alter its current response.

“But I do think it highlights one of the things that I pledged and with the help of the legislature on some of this - of making sure Minnesota had the best testing system in the country. The reason that we found it first is because we do this better,” Walz said.

A news release from the Minnesota Department of Health stated an adult male resident of Hennepin County developed mild symptoms Nov. 22 and sought COVID-19 testing on Nov. 24 after recently traveling to New York. He had been vaccinated, and his symptoms have resolved, they said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Thursday that the man traveled to New York City and attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19-21.

The first confirmed case of the variant in the nation was reported in California on Wednesday.

At least 23 other countries have reported omicron infections since South African authorities first identified the variant a week ago — an announcement that led the U.S. and many other nations to almost immediately bar airline travelers arriving from southern Africa.

In South Africa, new cases of COVID-19 nearly doubled in a single day to almost 8,600, authorities reported Wednesday, and the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said omicron has now overtaken the delta variant among samples now being analyzed at the genetic level.

The World Health Organization labeled omicron a “variant of concern,” stating early signs showed it may be more contagious than other forms of the virus.

The variant is still surrounded by many unknowns, including whether it causes more serious illness and the effectiveness of vaccines against it.

“Any declaration of what will or will not happen with this variant, I think it is too early to say,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The CDC recommends people follow its COVID-19 prevention strategies. Everyone 5 years and older should get vaccinated and get a booster shot if recommended, the agency said.

The CDC also stated people should get tested if they have symptoms and stay home if sick.

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