U.S. Reports Its 1st Omicron Case, in a California Traveler

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U.S. Stories Its 1st Omicron Case, in a California Traveler

WASHINGTON — The Omicron coronavirus variant was reported in the US for the primary time on Wednesday in a traveler who had been in South Africa, as scientists all over the world examine whether or not the variant is extra transmissible or virulent than its predecessors.

The affected person, a resident of San Francisco, is in isolation, and aggressive contact tracing is underway, the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention mentioned in an announcement. The particular person was absolutely vaccinated, although with no booster shot, and was displaying delicate signs that have been enhancing, the company mentioned.

The invention prompted the Biden administration to resume calls for everybody to get absolutely vaccinated and, if eligible, obtain a booster. It additionally got here because the C.D.C. requested airways for the names and speak to data of all passengers who had boarded flights certain for the US since Nov. 29 and who had been in southern Africa up to now two weeks.

The World Well being Group has warned that the danger posed by the variant, which was first recognized in South Africa on Thursday, is “very excessive.” Greater than 20 international locations have detected the variant.

California well being officers mentioned the state was growing coronavirus testing at airports, specializing in arrivals from international locations recognized by the C.D.C. as potential sources of the variant. Gov. Gavin Newsom mentioned that California wouldn’t be intensifying public well being restrictions, not less than within the quick time period, however that “we must always assume that it’s in different states as properly.”

“There isn’t a purpose to panic, however we must always stay vigilant,” he mentioned in an announcement. “The perfect factor we will do is to get vaccinated in case you haven’t already, get your booster, and put on your masks indoors. As we proceed to study extra about this variant, get examined when you’ve got signs, and keep residence in case you’re sick.”

On Thursday, President Biden is anticipated to announce methods the federal government will ramp up its combat towards the virus throughout the winter months, together with harder worldwide journey restrictions and efforts to speed up vaccine and booster availability.

Solutions about whether or not Omicron is extra contagious or lethal stay elusive as scientists across the globe race to map its attributes — together with extra mutations than the Delta variant — and search to find out whether or not the vaccines will show efficient in defending folks from an infection or critical hospitalization. Officers in South Africa have mentioned that they have no idea of any deaths related to the variant, however well being consultants say it’s too early to evaluate its true risks.

Nonetheless, Omicron’s emergence throughout the vacation season, as People ready to assemble with kinfolk, raised the grim prospect of yet one more surge in a pandemic that has severely examined the persistence of a weary public, prompted unparalleled financial injury and stoked political division.

Chatting with reporters shortly after the variant’s discovery was introduced, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the president’s high medical adviser, expressed optimism that the US would ultimately emerge from the grip of the pandemic.

“This can finish,” he mentioned. “I promise you that this can finish.”

Public well being officers all over the world have mentioned for days that they count on the brand new, mutated type of the virus will rapidly discover its approach to the US regardless of the imposition of a journey ban by the Biden administration and different governments on worldwide vacationers from eight southern African nations late final month.

Scientific affirmation of the variant’s presence in the US was nonetheless a jolt to Mr. Biden’s efforts to make good on his marketing campaign promise to convey the pandemic to a swift and conclusive finish. On the White Home on Wednesday, he mentioned that “we’re studying extra each single day” and vowed that the administration would “combat this variant with science and pace, not chaos and confusion.”

Shortly afterward, Dr. Fauci instructed reporters that affirmation of the brand new variant in the US ought to persuade unvaccinated People to get photographs instantly.

“We’ve got 60 million folks on this nation who aren’t vaccinated who’re eligible to be vaccinated,” he mentioned. “Let’s get them vaccinated. Let’s get the folks vaccinated, boosted. Let’s get the youngsters vaccinated.”

Dr. Fauci additionally urged warning, saying there was a lot that well being officers didn’t know concerning the new variant.

“There’s lots of data that’s now evolving,” he mentioned.

Scientists have mentioned that Omicron carries greater than 50 genetic mutations that in idea might make it extra contagious and fewer weak to the physique’s immune defenses than earlier variants. Greater than 30 of the mutations are within the virus’s spike, a protein on its floor. Vaccines practice the physique’s immune defenses to focus on and assault these spikes.

Accessible vaccines should still supply substantial safety towards extreme sickness and demise after an infection with the variant, and federal officers are calling on vaccinated folks to obtain booster photographs. The makers of the 2 best vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are making ready to reformulate their doses if needed, however that may take time.

In California, Mr. Newsom mentioned the contaminated particular person had not been hospitalized, and different folks the person got here involved with haven’t, at this level, examined constructive. The governor mentioned the affected person traveled from South Africa, landed in the US on Nov. 22 and began feeling delicate signs on Nov. 25. The particular person was examined for the coronavirus on Nov. 28 and obtained a constructive consequence a day later.

In a day, scientists on the College of California, San Francisco, had decided that it was the Omicron variant.

The particular person had obtained two doses of the Moderna vaccine however was throughout the six-month window of its effectiveness and had not obtained a booster, Mr. Newsom mentioned.

Mayor London N. Breed of San Francisco mentioned in an announcement that town had “one of many highest vaccination charges and lowest demise charges within the nation due to the actions our residents have taken from the start of this pandemic to maintain one another protected.”

The town’s well being director, Dr. Grant Colfax, added that “we’re nonetheless studying concerning the Omicron variant, however we aren’t again to sq. one with this illness.”

About 79 % of California residents have obtained not less than one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Instances and hospitalizations have largely been trending downward after a summer time improve pushed largely by the Delta variant.

Within the Bay Space, the place counties have a number of the highest vaccination charges within the state, longstanding masks mandates had lately been relaxed or lifted because the unfold of the virus slowed. Native governments within the state have begun to require companies to confirm vaccination standing for entry, and extra employees have been required to get their photographs — a pattern that officers have credited with serving to to sluggish the unfold.

All through the pandemic, San Francisco County has averted the disaster ranges that affected a number of the state’s different cities, like Los Angeles, as residents enthusiastically abided by restrictions, wore masks and acquired vaccinated. Seventy-seven % of the county’s residents are absolutely vaccinated, in line with its Division of Public Well being.

Dr. Bob M. Wachter, the chairman of the division of medication at U.C.S.F., mentioned that the case wouldn’t be the final in California. However for now, he mentioned, “I’m not altering my habits any primarily based on a single or a handful of circumstances.”

After information of the variant’s unfold in South Africa, international locations all over the world curtailed air journey to and from the area — measures that officers there described as unduly punitive, particularly in mild of the truth that Western international locations had didn’t ship enough vaccines and logistical help to the continent.

Nonetheless, the C.D.C. was contemplating plans to toughen necessities for screenings and coronavirus testing, reminiscent of asking vacationers to supply a unfavorable consequence taken inside 24 hours earlier than departure, amongst different steps.

Although the company has but to announce any modifications, vacationers have been left scrambling for pre-emptive checks and reservation modifications.

“It’s a disgrace, as a result of journey simply opened up once more,” mentioned Giritharan Sripathy, who was scheduled to fly to New York from London on Thursday.

Dutch officers mentioned on Tuesday that they’d recognized circumstances of the variant per week earlier than Friday, when 13 passengers who arrived on flights from South Africa examined constructive for it, signaling that Omicron was already current within the Netherlands.

In South Africa, the variant accounts for a lot of the new day by day circumstances reported within the nation’s most populous province, Gauteng, which is residence to some 15 million folks and the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

On the White Home on Wednesday, Dr. Fauci mentioned he was “not so certain” that new testing necessities for worldwide vacationers, which administration officers are at present weighing, would have helped catch the case earlier. The affected person had taken a take a look at instantly after starting to expertise what he described as delicate signs.

Dr. Fauci added that it was doable that the federal authorities might change its definition of “absolutely vaccinated” to require worldwide vacationers to have obtained booster photographs earlier than getting into the US.

Requested if People ought to be happy to attend vacation events and drink drinks unmasked, he mentioned it relied on the dimensions of the gathering.

“In a state of affairs with a vacation season, indoor-type settings with household that you already know is vaccinated, those that you already know, you’ll be able to really feel protected with not carrying a masks and having a dinner, having a reception,” Dr. Fauci mentioned. However in bigger public settings the place it’s unclear if everyone seems to be vaccinated, he mentioned, folks ought to put on masks besides to eat or drink.

Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, Shawn Hubler from Sacramento, and Roni Caryn Rabin from New York. Reporting was contributed by Jim Tankersley and Sheryl Homosexual Stolberg from Washington, Jill Cowan from Los Angeles, and Aina J. Khan from London.

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