Following the news on Wednesday that the first case of the new omicron variant has been confirmed in the U.S., on Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) confirmed that a second case has been detected in Minnesota. The Minnesota resident infected had recently traveled to New York City.
The variant was found through the MDH variant surveillance program. “Since the beginning of this pandemic, Minnesota’s nation-leading genome sequencing infrastructure and strong testing network have allowed the state to quickly track the COVID-19 virus and better understand its spread, said Gov. Tim Walz in a statement. “Today, those tools detected a case of the omicron variant in Minnesota.”
He continued, “This news is concerning, but it is 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. Together, we can fight this virus and help keep Minnesotans safe.”
On Thursday, President Biden announced an expansion of federal efforts to fight the variants, including the expansion of booster shots, free at-home COVID-19 tests, and the shipment of more vaccines globally. Americans can also now text 432289 to find the nearest clinic offering vaccines. Find more info about the federal plan at whitehouse.gov.
According to Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm, this new finding underscores the importance of continued efforts by all Minnesotans to limit the spread of COVID-19 in any form. “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,” Commissioner Malcolm said.
“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,” Malcolm said.
The person with the omicron variant is an adult male and a resident of Hennepin County who had been vaccinated. The person developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22 and sought COVID-19 testing on Nov. 24. The person’s symptoms have resolved. The person spoke with MDH case investigators and reported traveling to New York City and attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19-21. The person was advised to isolate from others.
Minnesota epidemiologists will continue to investigate in collaboration with New York City and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky released a statement Thursday morning: “We have been working closely with Minnesota’s Department of Health and will continue to work diligently with other U.S. and global public health and industry partners as we learn more.
“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 including masking in indoor public settings, washing your hands frequently and physical distancing. These methods work to prevent the spread of COVID-19, no matter the genetic sequence.”
Meanwhile, health officials urge Minnesotans to take the following steps to protect against COVID-19, including variants like omicron:
- Get vaccinated and if eligible get a booster. To find a vaccine near you, visit Find my vaccine.
- Wear well-fitting masks in indoor public settings and crowded outdoor settings.
- Get tested if you have symptoms, have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, have traveled as per guidelines or have been in a setting where you may have been exposed.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Wash hands frequently.
- Stay away from crowds.
- Improve ventilation in your home and workplace.
- Take extra care to avoid exposure to the virus if you have medical conditions or live with someone with medical conditions.
Visit the MDH website for more information on COVID-19.