Omicron, the new strain of COVID-19 that has caused worldwide alarm the last week, has now been detected in eight New York residents.
On Saturday, Dec. 4, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced three more cases have been identified, two days after the state announced its first five cases.
So far, the cases appear unrelated and have been confirmed through sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to the New York State Health Department.
All three of the new cases are from New York City.
Nationally, a total of 23 people have been infected in 11 states: Utah, California, Minnesota, Colorado, Hawaii, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York
Specific details on the symptoms or vaccination statuses of the three new cases have not yet been released. The first five New Yorkers infected all experienced mild symptoms.
Of the eight total New York cases as of now, seven are from the five boroughs of NYC and one is on Long Island, a 67-year-old Long Island woman who lives in Suffolk County and had recently traveled to South Africa, Hochul announced early Thursday evening, Dec. 2.
Three of the eight New York Omicron cases were identified at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, three cases were identified at the Pandemic Response Lab (PRL), one case was confirmed by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Suffolk County case was identified by PRL.
Earlier in the day on Thursday, it was announced a man from the Midwest who attended an Anime convention in New York City was identified to have the Omicron strain. That person, from Minnesota, was fully vaccinated and boosted and also experienced mild symptoms.
None of the eight cases are believed to be related to the Anime convention at the Javits Center, the state health department said.
"We knew the Omicron variant was coming and we expect to see more cases. But let me be clear: We are not defenseless," Hochul said. "We have the tools to help prevent the spread of this deadly virus: Get your vaccine, get your booster, and wear your mask. Let's use these tools to protect ourselves and our loved ones as we approach the holidays."
NY Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "The Omicron variant is here, and as anticipated we are seeing the beginning of community spread. We continue to work closely with our partners at the national, state, and local levels.
"At this time, we do not know how quickly Omicron will spread or how severe the symptoms of Omicron will be. What we are seeing is that the rise of cases across New York State continues to be traced to the Delta variant. We encourage all New Yorkers to use the best preventative tools we have: get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear a mask."
Health officials had been bracing for the first such US Omicron case for days, and early Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 1, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention confirmed a person in California has been infected with the new strain.
That individual was fully vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms that are improving at this point, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease said at a White House news conference.
The San Francisco Department of Health said the individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Monday, Nov. 22, and tested positive for COVID on Monday, Nov. 29.
The first North American cases were ID'd in Canada. Both were in Ottawa, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement released Sunday evening, Nov. 28. The two infected people had traveled from Nigeria and have been isolated, Elliott said.
The Omicron variant, whose name comes from the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, is spreading fast in Europe after the first case was identified by scientists in South Africa on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
The World Health Organization (WHO) designated Omicron, originally identified as the B.1.1.529 strain, as a "variant of concern" in an emergency meeting on Friday, Nov. 26.
- Earlier report - COVID-19: New Variant's 50 Mutations Make It Different From Original Virus, NIH Director Says
Travel restrictions ordered by the Biden Administration went into effect on Monday, Nov. 29 covering South Africa and seven surrounding countries: Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
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