Updated Dec 2, 2021 - News

Omicron variant detected in Minnesota

Saliva samples from COVID tests.
Photo: Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The new Omicron variant has been detected in a vaccinated Minnesota resident with recent travel history to New York City, the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement Thursday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case involved a patient who developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22 and got a COVID-19 test on Nov. 24, per MDH. He is no longer experiencing symptoms.

  • Prior to testing positive, he had attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19-21.
  • The individual was vaccinated more than six months ago and received a booster shot in early November, Minnesota Health commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

State of play: The Minnesota case comes one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the United States' first known case of the variant.

What they're saying: "This news is concerning, but it is not a surprise. We know that this virus is highly infectious and moves quickly throughout the world," Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement. "Minnesotans know what to do to keep each other safe now — get the vaccine, get tested, wear a mask indoors, and get a booster."

  • Later, speaking at a stop in northern Minnesota, the governor said the news has not changed his decision to hold off on reinstating a statewide mask mandate or other restrictions.

Between the lines: Malcolm said Wednesday that the variant would likely be "quickly" detected once it appeared in the state, thanks to robust testing, surveillance and genome sequencing programs.

  • More specimens flagged as potential Omicron cases are being tested. Those samples are not necessarily connected to the confirmed patient.

What you can do: Malcolm and other state officials are urging residents to get vaccinated, wear masks and stay home and seek testing if they experience symptoms.

  • "[Omicron] is another kind of wake up call, if we needed another one, that this remains a global challenge," Malcolm said. "Even though we might feel like we're done with the pandemic, it is most certainly not done with us."

Go deeper: Omicron dashboard

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details throughout.

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