Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Fox News has confirmed that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the first case of the omicron COVID-19 variant in the U.S.
“The California and San Francisco Departments of Public Health have confirmed that a recent case of COVID-19 among an individual in California was caused by the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529),” the CDC wrote in a Wednesday statement.
The agency explained that the individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22, 2021.
“The individual, who was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that are improving, is self-quarantining and has been since testing positive. All close contacts have been contacted and have tested negative,” the CDC noted.
Genomic sequencing was conducted at the University of California, San Francisco and the sequence was confirmed at CDC as being consistent with the “variant of concern.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser, told reporters in a news conference that the individual had tested positive on Nov. 29, 2021 and had not received a booster shot.
He said that officials “knew it was just a matter of time before the first case of omicron would be detected in the U.S.
“We know what we need to do to protect people. Get vaccinated, if you’re not already vaccinated. Get boosted if you’ve been vaccinated for more than six months with an mRNA or two months with [Johnson & Johnson] and all the other things we’ve been talking about…” Fauci said, adding later that there are currently no other cases the CDC is investigating as omicron-linked.
“As the president said last Friday, it was only a matter of time before the first case of omicron was detected in the U.S.,” the White House said in a statement later in the day. “We are prepared to meet this challenge with science and speed.”
“The president’s medical team continues to believe that existing vaccines will provide some level of protection against severe illness from omicron and individuals who have gotten boosters have even stronger protection,” they continued. “As such, we urge all adults to get their booster shots and to get themselves and their kids vaccinated, if they haven’t already.”
The news comes as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new strain of the virus.
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.
The CDC was moving to tighten U.S. testing rules for travelers from overseas, including requiring a test for all travelers within a day of boarding a flight to the U.S. regardless of vaccination status. It was also considering mandating post-arrival testing.
Officials said those measures would only “buy time” for the country to learn more about the new variant and to take appropriate precautions, but that given its transmissibility its arrival in the U.S. was inevitable.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.