California confirms nation's 1st omicron case

California officials have confirmed that a recent case of COVID-19 was caused by the coronavirus variant B.1.1.529 — also known as omicron — the first known case detected in the U.S., according to a Dec. 1 news release from the CDC.

The individual had returned from South Africa Nov. 22. The individual was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving. The individual is self-quarantining. All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative.

The World Health Organization deemed omicron a variant of concern Nov. 26, the first new variant of concern since delta. Preliminary evidence suggests that omicron may increase risk of reinfection, according to the WHO. On Nov. 30, the U.S. also classified it as a variant of concern. The CDC said it will continue to work diligently with other U.S. and global public health and industry partners to learn more.  

The emergence of the omicron variant underscores the importance of vaccination, boosters and general prevention strategies needed to protect against COVID-19, according to the CDC, which expanded its official booster recommendations Nov. 29 to include all American adults.

California officials said they will be increasing COVID-19 testing at state airports, focusing on arrivals from countries identified by the CDC as potential sources of the variant, The New York Times reported.

President Joe Biden is expected to announce Dec. 2 a new strategy to combat the virus, senior administration officials told the Times. Speaking under the condition of anonymity, the officials said the plans include having at-home tests reimbursed by private healthcare insurers and distributing 25 million at-home tests to community and rural clinics for Americans who aren't covered by private insurers.


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