A coronavirus infection involving the concerning omicron variant has been identified in a Minnesotan who recently traveled to New York.
Genomic sequencing surveillance of samples from infected individuals identified the COVID-19 case, which Minnesota leaders said was inevitable given how quickly the omicron variant spreads.
“This news is concerning, but it is not a surprise,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement. “We know that this virus is highly infectious and moves quickly throughout the world.”
The confirmed infection involved a vaccinated man from Hennepin County who developed mild symptoms Nov. 22 and sought testing two days later. The man, who has recovered, spoke with state case investigators and confirmed he had traveled to New York City and attended the Anime NYC convention Nov. 19-21. State investigators urged him to isolate from others to prevent the spread of the infection.
Minnesota’s current COVID-19 wave has been dominated by the fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus. The omicron variant was labeled a “variant of concern” last week after it was identified in South Africa, where it spread quickly and showed some potential to evade immunity from vaccination or previous infection.
The first U.S. omicron infection was announced Wednesday in a California resident.
Minnesota has one of the most aggressive COVID-19 surveillance programs in the country, using a combination of public and private labs to evaluate approximately 20% of all positive specimens for their genomic lineage. Only California and Massachusetts are conducting more genomic sequencing of samples, so state health officials expected that Minnesota would be among the first states to identify an omicron infection.
Health officials said much is unknown as of yet about omicron.
“Scientists are working hard to learn more about its transmissibility and its virulence as well as how well vaccines may protect a person against it or how well treatment is effective against it,” state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said, on Wednesday before the discovery of the Minnesota case. “Literally information is coming in hour by hour.”