The COVID-19 omicron variant has been found in at least 10 U.S. states as of Friday, only around a week since health officials discovered the new strain in southern Africa, according to The Hill.
The states reporting omicron variant cases are: Maryland, Utah, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, Colorado, Minnesota, California, Hawaii and Nebraska. Health officials believe it has most likely reached other states already as well.
The first U.S. case was discovered on Wednesday in California. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced five cases in her state on Thursday, the most in any state so far.
Maryland state health officials confirmed three cases on Friday in the Baltimore area. Six cases were found in Nebraska and one in Missouri the same day, The New York Times reported.
A double-vaccinated Colorado resident who had recently returned from southern Africa was that state’s first confirmed case on Thursday, per The Denver Post.
Most interest in the omicron variant is how it relates in transmissibility and severity to that of the delta variant. Delta has recently seen a resurgence across the United States, The Washington Post noted.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said at a press briefing on Friday that scientists are closely monitoring the rate at which cases double to see whether omicron will overtake delta to become the dominant variant in the United States, according to the Times.
Fauci said that within about two weeks, “We’ll know more about transmission, immune evasion, and severity of the disease.”
“CDC is providing support to enhance and streamline genomic sequencing nationally and is expanding surveillance of international travelers,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as reported by USA Today. “We should remember that 99.9% of cases in the country right now are from delta.”
World Health Organization (WHO) officials echoed a similar sentiment at a Friday news conference from the Philippines.
“The positive news in all of this is that none of the information we have currently about omicron suggests we need to change the directions of our response,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.