A medical worker gives a nasal swab-Covid-19- to a traveler at the Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care test site in the international terminal of the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California, USA, Thursday, December 2nd Test, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
At least eight US states now have at least 20 cases of the highly mutated Omicron-Covid-19 variant after Nebraska, Maryland and Pennsylvania confirmed all infections on Friday.
The news comes a day after 10 cases were cconfirmed in Minnesota, Colorado, New York, Hawaii and California, which reported the nation’s first case of the variant in a patient in San Francisco on Wednesday and the tenth case in Los Angeles on Thursday.
Maryland health officials have confirmed cases in three residents of the metropolitan area of Baltimore. One patient was vaccinated and recently traveled to South Africa, and another was unvaccinated and in close contact with that patient, according to a press release from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
The third case in Maryland is unrelated to the others and involves a vaccinated person with no recent travel history, the press release said. None of the three people are hospitalized.
The patient in Pennsylvania is a man in his thirties from northwest Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The department is still working to get more information on the case, it said in a press release.
Hours earlier, Nebraska officials confirmed six infections after a traveler returned from Nigeria and apparently infected five members of her household.
The first patient returned from Nigeria on November 23 and became symptomatic on November 24, according to a press release from the Public Health Solutions District Department of Health.
Only one of the six people was vaccinated and none had to be hospitalized, the department said.
New York officials confirmed five cases late Thursday: one in Suffolk County on Long Island, two in Queens, one in Brooklyn and another in New York City. Minnesota public health officials confirmed the second case of variant in the United States earlier that day in a resident who had recently returned from a New York City convention.
The US is among the list of 38 countries with confirmed cases the World Health Organization announced the Omicron variant on Friday.
President Joe Biden on Thursday tightened pre-departure test rules for international flights and expanded mask requirements on public transport as part of a broader strategy to curb the spread of the new variant.
However, officials in New York and Hawaii who reported cases of the variant Thursday said they believe Omicron is already spreading in their communities.
“This is not just because of people traveling to southern Africa or other parts of the world where Omicron has already been identified,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, at a press conference on Thursday.
Omicron has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein that the virus uses to attach to human cells. According to the WHO, some of the mutations are associated with higher transmission and reduced antibody protection.
Health officials in the US and around the world have feared that the variant could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines to some extent.
“The molecular profile of the types of mutations you see [in omicron] would suggest that it may be more transmissible and could elude some of the protection afforded by vaccines, “White House chief medical officer Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters on Wednesday.” But we don’t know now.