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First Case of the COVID-19 Omicron Variant in the U.S. Is Confirmed

First Case of the COVID-19 Omicron Variant in the U.S. Is Confirmed

California confirmed the first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant in the United States this week.

According to reports, the recorded case came in a vaccinated traveler who had returned to California after a trip to South Africa.

“We knew it was just a matter of time before the first case of omicron would be detected in the United States,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious-disease expert.

The traveler had returned from South Africa on Nov. 22. The person developed mild symptoms and then tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, the Associated Press reports.

Researchers are already working to assemble the genetic sequence from a sample from the patient.

California officials said that the person had received two full doses of the Moderna vaccine but wasn’t due yet for a booster. Officials also added that the patient is improving.

The patient is still in quarantine and is identified only as being between 18 to 49 years old. Those who came in close contact with the patient have already been tested.

The mild nature of the California person’s infection “is a testimony to the importance of the vaccinations,” said California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.

The first case comes just a week after South African officials first announced the finding of the new variant. South Africa reported almost 8,600 cases COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, nearly doubling. Since the variant was identified, some 23 countries have reported omicron infections.

Still, scientists cannot say how vaccines will impact the variant or if the new variant poses a greater risk.

“Any declaration of what will or will not happen with this variant, I think it is too early to say,” Fauci said.

European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it will take two to three weeks before the variant can be thoroughly studied.

“This is, in normal times, a short period. In pandemic times, it’s an eternity,” she said.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Juan Ruiz Paramo 

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.