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Minnesota reports second U.S. case of COVID-19 Omicron variant

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Minnesota reports second U.S. case of COVID-19 Omicron variant

Minnesota health officials on Thursday announced that person who traveled to New York in mid-November has tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the second case of the variant detected in the United States. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 2 (UPI) — One day after the first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was confirmed in California, a second case of the highly contagious strain was identified in Minnesota, public health officials there said Thursday.

Lab testing confirmed that a case of COVID-19 involved the new variant, but that the patient had not recently traveled to southern Africa, where the strain was first found.

However, the patient, a 22-year-old male, had traveled to New York City last month, according to officials.

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“This news is concerning, but it is not a surprise,” Minnesota governor Tim Walz said in a press release.

“We know that this virus is highly infectious and moves quickly throughout the world,” he said.

Omicron was first found in South Africa in November. Officials there said the variant has fueled an “exponential” increase in COVID-19 cases in the country in recent weeks.

The variant has 32 genetic mutations to the spike protein, which is the target of currently available vaccines against the virus, meaning the shots could be less effective at preventing infection, experts say.

While Omicron has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, scientists are still working to determine how it may compare with the Delta variant, which is currently the predominant strain in the United States in terms of transmissibility and disease severity.

The Minnesota case involving the variant is in an adult male who was fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the state’s Department of Health.

The man developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22 and sought COVID-19 testing on Nov. 24, and his symptoms have already resolved, officials said.

He reported traveling to New York City and attending the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19-21, they said.

“We still have more to learn about Omicron, but the most important thing we can do right now is to use the tools we have available to make it as hard as possible for this virus to spread,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a press release.

“In addition to vaccination and boosters, we can slow the spread of this variant and all COVID-19 variants by using the tried-and-true prevention methods of wearing masks, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate,” she said.

Minnesota epidemiologists will continue to investigate in collaboration with New York City and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officials said.

“CDC has been actively monitoring and preparing for this variant [and] we have been working closely with Minnesota’s Department of Health,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

“CDC has expanded its capacity for genomic sequencing over the past nine months and we have more tools to fight the variant than we had at this time last year from vaccines to boosters to the prevention strategies that we know work,” she said.

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