Minnesota confirms US's second omicron case

Minnesota on Thursday reported its first omicron COVID-19 case, marking the second confirmed case of the new variant of concern in the U.S.  

The Minnesota Department of Health detected the variant through its surveillance program among a resident who recently traveled domestically to New York City. 

The patient is a vaccinated adult male who developed now-resolved mild symptoms last week before getting tested. In the days before his symptoms emerged, the patient attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention. Health officials instructed the patient to isolate from others. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said during a press conference that the patient had been vaccinated more than six months ago and received a booster dose early last month.

"While this is clearly something to take seriously ... it is not a reason to panic," she said.

Minnesota Gov. Tim WalzTim WalzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden calls for omicron concern, but not panic Minnesota governor announces positive COVID-19 test Politicians and celebrities who have tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the holidays MORE (D) called the identification of the omicron strain in his state “concerning” but “not a surprise.”

“We know that this virus is highly infectious and moves quickly throughout the world. Minnesotans know what to do to keep each other safe now — get the vaccine, get tested, wear a mask indoors, and get a booster,” he said in a release. “Together, we can fight this virus and help keep Minnesotans safe.”

Despite the patient's travel history, New York Gov. Kathy HochulKathy HochulGovernors declare state of emergency ahead of severe winter weather Mask-or-vaccine mandate in New York extended to mid-February, Hochul says Bills fans who allegedly used fake vaccine cards to attend playoff game facing felony charges MORE (D) said on Thursday morning that there were no confirmed omicron cases in her state.

Minnesota officials said they'd coordinate with New York City and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the strain.

ADVERTISEMENT

The omicron variant was detected in Minnesota a day after the U.S. announced its first case involving the strain in California. The infected San Francisco resident had visited South Africa, where the variant was first detected. The vaccinated California patient, who had not yet received a booster, developed mild symptoms and is self-quarantining. 

But the variant’s emergence among someone who only traveled domestically signals the strain could already be spreading within the U.S. 

Officials confirmed these omicron cases after the country implemented a travel ban against eight African countries near South Africa and Botswana, whose authorities detected the strain. The restrictions exempt American citizens and permanent residents. 

Leaders of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations have criticized the travel restrictions in the U.S. and other countries, saying they punish the governments who alerted the world to the omicron variants.   

Although the WHO identified omicron as a variant of concern last week, scientists are still researching the transmissibility and disease severity of the strain.

The omicron variant caught the eye of scientists due to its many mutations that could potentially increase the virus's contagiousness.

President BidenJoe BidenFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Romney tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi sidesteps progressives' March 1 deadline for Build Back Better MORE unveiled his administration's strategy to combat the new variant and a potential winter surge on Thursday, including extending mask requirements for public transportation and mandating tests for international travelers within 24 hours of their departure.

--Updated at 12:42 p.m.