A person in California is the first in the US to have an identified case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the White House announces.
The Biden administration moved late last month to restrict travel from Southern Africa where the variant was first identified and had been widespread. Clusters of cases have also been identified in about two dozen other nations.
“This is the first case of COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant detected in the United States,” Dr. Anthony Fauci says at the White House. He says the person was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive on Nov. 29.
Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious than previous strains, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine. Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, says more will be known about the Omicron strain in two to four weeks as scientists grow and test lab samples of the virus.