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Omicron variant a cause for concern in the U.S. as first positive case is confirmed in California

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Anthony Fauci (right), Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor to the President, speaks alongside U.S. President Joe Biden as he delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting of the COVID-19 response team at the White House on Nov. 29, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/TNS)

On Wednesday, Dec. 1 the first positive case of the recently identified COVID-19 Omicron variant was reported in California.

The individual is said to have traveled back to the United States from South Africa and was experiencing mild symptoms according to Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci.

Researchers are still speculating where exactly the variant originated from, as most reports are stating it originally came from South Africa, while the latest reports are stating the variant was actually identified in Europe just a week before.

“The MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories is monitoring the Omicron variant and has updated its database to reflect the new variant and its ‘genetic code,’’ stated Chelsea Wuth, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Associate Public Information Officer. “Results from 31,000+ samples sequenced in our lab have been rerun to compare them to the Omicron variant, and no cases have been identified among our lab’s sequenced data.” 

Though not officially listed, the Omicron variant is now one of 11 recognized variants by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to date. The Delta variant continues to be both health organizations’ focus as it accounts for the majority of positive cases throughout the United States, especially the state of Michigan.

Between Nov. 17-30, 8,010 positive cases were reported in Kent County, with a the majority of cases relating to the Delta variant. 

“This new variant underscores the importance of Michiganders practicing COVID mitigations factors,” Wuth stated. “The more highly transmissible Delta variant has fueled the current surge in COVID cases. Increased transmission fuels the development of more variants of concern. Ensuring that as many Michiganders as possible are vaccinated is the best protection we have against further variants of concern.”

Due to its recent identification, Omicron’s severity and spreadability is still unclear to researchers around the globe. This includes knowledge about how effective existing vaccines will be against the variant.

“We urge all Michiganders to wear masks, socially distance, wash their hands and get tested for COVID-19 and stay home if they are feeling ill,” Wuth stated. “More than 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and older have received their first dose of the safe and effective COVID-19 and we thank them for getting vaccinated to protect themselves and others, but we have further progress to make. As more individuals are vaccinated, it is less likely that the virus will circulate and mutate, avoiding the development of more transmissible and vaccine-resistant variants in the future.”

More information about testing locations and updates about COVID-19 can be found here.

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