The newest Covid variant Omicron is in the U.S.
In San Francisco, California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a fully vaccinated traveler returned from South Africa to test positive from Covid, becoming the first person in America to be identified with the Omicron variant. The patient is suffering mild symptoms and quarantining.
Top pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke with reporters Wednesday saying it was only a matter of time before the first omicron case would be detected in the U.S. He emphasized the importance of vaccines, as well as booster shots.
In order to try and curb higher Omicron infection rates, President Joe Biden has extended until mid-March a mask mandate for travelers on airplanes, trains and busses, and anyone going through transport stations such as train stations and airports. The mandate was supposed to expire on Jan. 18, 2022, but is being extended as part of a wider winter strategy against Covid.
Omicron has been detected in nearly two dozen countries worldwide, including in Canada, the UK, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Botswana.
The new variant, B.1.1.529, was classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Nov. 26. The U.S. classified it as a Variant of Concern on Nov. 30.
The CDC has encouraged vaccines, booster shots, and general prevention strategies in order to protect from Covid, emphasizing that everyone over the age of 5 should be getting a vaccination.
Biden’s winter strategy to combat Covid and the new variant is set to include more vaccination sites for families, more booster shots, more at-home testing, new travel restrictions, and new travel requirements. He is set to announce the strategy at the National Institutes of Health later on Thursday. At the heart of the plan is a renewed encouragement to get vaccinations.
Experts are saying not to panic yet though because there’s simply not enough data on the variant to jump to conclusions. No firm evidence has been produced yet that Omicron is more dangerous than previous strains, such as the Delta variant.