This week on the Minnesota Native News Health Report, the COVID-19 Omicron variant has been detected in the state for the first time. Health officials are calling it a concerning, but not surprising, development. Reporter Cole Premo has more on this and what it means for Minnesota.
According to the Minnesota Health Department, a man who lives in Hennepin County is the state’s first confirmed case of the Omicron variant. It’s also the second confirmed case detected in the United States.
MDH says that the man recently traveled to New York City where he attended an Anime convention event. Then, a day after the event, on Nov. 22, he developed mild symptoms. A couple of days later, he got tested.
In New York, governor Kathy Hochul is urging everyone who attended the event to get tested. She says the state has a list of all attendees and can contact them. Omicron cases have since been detected in New York, Colorado and Hawaii.
The Minnesotan who tested positive for Omicron was fully vaccinated and had received their booster shot in early November before the event in New York City.
The Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm addressed the development following the announcement of the confirmed case.
“While this is clearly something we’re taking seriously, it’s not a reason to panic. As we are with other variants, there’s still a lot more to learn from the variant,” said Malcolm.
The Omicron variant is classified by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern. Scientists are still researching how the new variant compares to the predominant Delta variant, including its transmissibility and disease severity. Research also continues to look into how well the vaccines and treatments protect against Omicron.
Malcolm says the new finding underscores the importance of Minnesotans limiting the spread of COVID-19.
“The most important thing we can do is stay on offense and use the important tools available to make it as hard as possible for this virus to spread. In addition to vaccination and boosters, we can slow the spread by using a layered approach of wearing masks, staying home when sick and getting tested when appropriate .. now is especially the time for everyone 5 and older get vaccinated, or anyone over 18 to get boosters,” said Malcolm.
The Minnesota health department is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as New York City on investigating the Omicron case.
The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa.
Meanwhile, Minnesota’s latest COVID-19 positivity rate is on a downward trend, with 10.1% recorded as of late November, down from 11% recorded in mid-November. It’s still slightly over what state health officials call a “high risk” threshold, which is 10%.
Over 7.8 million vaccine doses have been administered in the state so far, with 1.1 million of those being booster shots.
Cole Premo reporting for Minnesota Native News