MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed that the COVID-19 Omicron variant has been detected for the first time in the state. It’s the second confirmed case of the variant in the country.
On Thursday, MDH said its Public Health Laboratory found the variant in a specimen from a Minnesota resident who recently traveled to New York City. The person is a man who lives in Hennepin County, and had been vaccinated.READ MORE: Minnesota Weather: Sunday Snow Could Make For Monday Morning Commute Headaches
He said he traveled to New York City and attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19 through Nov. 21. He developed “mild symptoms” the day following the event and sought testing on Nov. 24. His symptoms have resolved.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke Thursday, urging everyone who attended the Anime conference to get tested. She says the state has a list of all attendees and can contact them. There have been no confirmed cases in New York yet.
In a press conference following the announcement, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said that the Minnesotan who tested positive for the Omicron variant was vaccinated more than six months ago, and had received a booster shot in early November.
He has been advised to isolate from others.
Malcolm said the new finding in Minnesota underscores the importance of limiting the spread of COVID-19.
“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,” 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.”
State officials say the variant case was found through the MDH’s 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. Today, those tools detected a case of the Omicron variant in Minnesota,” Gov. Tim Walz said. “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.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement on the confirmed case in Minnesota, saying they are working with both MDH and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.READ MORE: Shoplifter Shoots St. Paul Liquor Store Worker Twice, Police Say
“CDC has been actively monitoring and preparing for this variant,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “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.”
Hours after the confirmed case in Minnesota, an additional case was reported in Colorado in a female patient who recently traveled to southern Africa. She has minor symptoms and was vaccinated against COVID-19, but did not receive a vaccine booster.
On Wednesday, federal officials confirmed the first case of the variant detected in the United States, in California.
The Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa, is emerging amid the busy holiday travel season. According to auto club AAA, over 53 million Americans were estimated to have traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday, an increase from last year.
Daily Figures Updates: 72 Additional Deaths
As health officials held a press conference late Thursday morning, the health department updated figures in the COVID-19 pandemic.
MDH reported 5,313 additional COVID-19 cases and 72 additional deaths. All 72 deaths occurred in November, and included a Steele County resident in their 20s and a St. Louis County resident in their 30s.
Since the pandemic began, 9,554 deaths have been attributed to the virus and over 921,000 cases have been recorded — including reinfections.
As of Wednesday, there were 1,204 patients with the virus needing non-ICU beds — an additional 345 patients are in ICU beds. Nearly 46,500 people have been hospitalized for the virus.
As daily death numbers continue to be a concern, the state’s positivity rate is on a downward trend. It’s at 10.1% as of last week, which is just above the high risk threshold. That’s down from 11% recorded in mid-November.
For vaccines, 7.8 million doses have been administered in the state, including 1.1 million booster shots. Just over 70% of those ages 5 and older have received at least one vaccine dose.MORE NEWS: 'Hockey Party’: Hundreds Compete In Pond Hockey Tournament's Opening Weekend Finale