Yesterday in my blog on the 1st Omicron detection in Minnesota, I suggested that in a day or two - instead of talking about individual cases here in the United States - we'd be updating daily totals. This morning we have at least 7 additional cases, reported from 3 new states (New York, Colorado & Hawaii).
The cases from New York and Hawaii involve community transmission, as did the Minnesota case (presumably acquired on a trip to NYC to attend an Anime Convention).
Since most of theses infections were acquired more than a week ago - even before the 1st alarm was raised in South Africa - we can assume that Omicron has already established a solid beachhead in the United States.
Still unknown is the severity of illness caused by this variant.
So far, reports suggest mild-to-moderate illness, but most of the cases we are aware of are either fully or partially vaccinated. While the vaccine's ability to prevent infection may be reduced, it may still be providing valuable protection against severe disease.
While encouraging, in South Africa hospitalization rates are rising, suggesting this variant causes significant illness in some individuals. We'll know more as additional data comes in on outcomes among both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
In the meantime, we've the following reports from officials in the three states reporting cases overnight. First from New York Governor Kathy Hochul who announced 5 new cases last night in a press conference.
But in terms of the information we received, literally, there are five cases identified today in the State of New York. The first one was in Suffolk County. I've been in communication with the County Executive Steve Bellone to alert him. This came out of a lab that is in Suffolk, and it was a 67-year-old female who had symptoms, mild symptoms of a headache and a cough. There is some vaccination history. We don't know if it's one vaccination, two, or a booster shot. And that information will be shared with the public as soon as we receive it. But there's at least one vaccination involved. This is an individual who traveled from South Africa, who tested negative upon returning to the U.S. on 11-25. And on November 30th, they took a point of care test and they did test positive. and Northwell sent the results to the – the individual, to a lab. And that person did test positive. Again, a traveler from South Africa who arrived here and is a Suffolk County resident, a 67-year-old woman. Our second case is Queens based. The vaccination status is unknown to know whether or not this person had been vaccinated or not. Third case, similar situation, no other for further personal details, but the vaccination status is unknown, Queens based. And another case is from Brooklyn, unknown vaccination status. And we just received word of another suspected traveler case here in the city that was identified in the city and in one of the five boroughs.
Our next stop is Hawaii, where their Department of Health reports 1 case, but significantly without travel history, indicating it was community acquired.
HAWAI‘I DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH LABORATORY DETECTS OMICRON VARIANT IN HAWAI‘IPosted on Dec 2, 2021 in COVID-19, Newsroom
HONOLULU – The Hawai‘i Department of Health’s (DOH) State Laboratories Division (SLD) confirms the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529, also known as the Omicron variant, has been detected in the islands.
“This isn’t reason for panic, but it is reason for concern. It’s a reminder the pandemic is ongoing. We need to protect ourselves by getting vaccinated, wearing masks, distancing as best we can and avoiding large crowds,” said Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char, FACEP.
On Monday, Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Inc. (DLS) identified a specimen with a molecular clue indicating it may be Omicron. The State Laboratories Division performed expedited whole genome sequencing and today determined the specimen is the Omicron variant.
The COVID-19 positive individual is an O‘ahu resident with moderate symptoms who had previously been infected with COVID-19, but was never vaccinated.
This is a case of community spread. The individual has no history of travel.
The Omicron variant has been detected in at least 23 countries and at least two other states.
“Throughout the pandemic, DOH’s state lab has been a leader in conducting COVID-19 genomic sequencing, which is how the Omicron variant was identified. Our surveillance system is working. This announcement serves as a reminder to be extremely careful to protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially during the holiday season,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble.
“Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Inc. (DLS) has worked closely with the Department of Health since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Dr. Chris Whelen, Vice President and Technical Director for Microbiology and Molecular Diagnostics. “When we detected the spike gene drop-out, which is a molecular clue that the virus might be the omicron variant, we immediately reported it to DOH State Laboratories and sent them the sample for sequencing.”
Anyone contacted by a case investigator from DOH is asked to please cooperate in an effort to slow the transmission of COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms is asked to get tested and avoid other people. Unvaccinated people who come in close contact with COVID-19 positive individuals are advised to get tested.
Information on free testing and vaccines is available at https://hawaiicovid19.com/.
COVID-19 omicron variant confirmed in Colorado
DENVER, (Dec. 2, 2021): Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has confirmed its first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in Colorado. The case was identified in an adult female resident of Arapahoe County who had recently traveled to Southern Africa for tourism. She is experiencing minor symptoms and is isolated and recuperating at home. She had been fully vaccinated and was eligible for the booster vaccine but had not received it yet.
The Colorado State Public Health Laboratory conducted genome sequencing on the specimen and confirmed the presence of the omicron variant. The specimen had the signature S gene target failure diagnostic test profile that has been identified in omicron cases. Colorado became the third state to detect the omicron variant and was the first in the nation to identify the Alpha variant last December thanks to the sophisticated team of CDPHE epidemiologists and scientists at the Colorado State Laboratory.
ABOUT THE CASE:
This case was identified following a positive test result through routine case investigation by Tri-County Health Department, CDPHE’s epidemiologists flagged it for follow-up because of recent travel history. CDPHE sent a team to collect an additional specimen for genome sequencing and has been working closely with Tri-County Health Department on case investigation. People who have recently traveled internationally should be tested 3-5 days after their return with a molecular or PCR test, regardless of symptoms or vaccination history.
CDPHE has issued an isolation order for this case and close contacts in Colorado have tested negative. CDPHE is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate this case. CDC is coordinating all travel-associated interstate and international contact tracing efforts and will work with airlines to identify all potentially exposed passengers.
Omicron (B.1.1.529) is a new variant that was first detected in November in South Africa, and may be responsible for an increase in cases in that country. CDC announced that the California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health confirmed the first case of omicron variant in the United States yesterday and a second case was identified in Minnesota earlier today. There is still a lot to learn about the omicron variant, but due to some of the mutations on the spike protein of the virus, it is possible that omicron might be more transmissible, or immune response may not be as effective. The World Health Organization has classified this variant as a variant of concern.
CDPHE has multiple, sophisticated monitoring programs to detect the presence of variants in the state. The CDPHE Laboratory and some private laboratories conduct genetic sequencing of human samples that are positive for SARS-CoV-2 from around the state.
State health officials want to restate that all Coloradans (ages 5+) should get vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone 18 or older who has received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago or who has received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for their initial dose is encouraged to get a booster dose as soon as possible. In addition, all Coloradans (ages 6 months+) should get vaccinated with the flu vaccine to protect the health care system.
It’s particularly critical that Coloradans heed caution and get vaccinated, get a booster dose, wear a mask in indoor public spaces, limit large gatherings, wash their hands frequently, get tested if they have symptoms or were exposed, and practice physical distancing. People who have recently traveled internationally should be tested 3-5 days after their return with a molecular or PCR test, regardless of symptoms or vaccination history. Anyone, regardless of vaccination status, who develops symptoms should get tested immediately and isolate. There are more than 140 free community testing sites across Colorado.
Continue to stay up to date by visiting covid19.colorado.gov. All detected variants of concern in Colorado are listed on the data dashboard and the CDC has a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 variants.
Even if you don't live in one of the 5 states reporting Omicron cases, it would be prudent to assume it is already spreading in your community as well.
Because even if it isn't, it is just a matter of time until it will.