One of his close contacts has since tested positive for Covid-19, officials said, but because a rapid test was used, scientists have not yet determined whether that person, who is also in Minnesota, had the Omicron variant as well.
Genetic sequencing is required to determine which variant a patient has. In recent months the United States has greatly expanded sequencing, but the process takes time — at the Centers for Disease Control, typically about 10 days — to yield results. Currently, according to the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, about 14 percent of all positive P.C.R. tests in the U.S. are being sequenced.
On Wednesday, California health officials announced that a San Francisco resident had been infected with the Omicron variant — a finding they emphasized was inevitable, as they worked to contain alarm over the variant’s discovery in the United States.
Experts have said since the Omicron variant was first identified that it was only a matter of time before the variant made its way to the United States, and that once a case was detected, many more would probably soon be found.
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“I’m personally surprised it took this long” for the first case to appear, Dr. Bob Wachter, a professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said on Wednesday. “Today it’s in California, tomorrow it’ll be several other states.”
Though the new Omicron variant is grabbing headlines, officials warned that the earlier Delta variant of the coronavirus remains prevalent and is still spreading in the United States, posing a grave risk especially to unvaccinated Americans, who are much more likely than vaccinated people to become severely ill if they are infected.
In Minnesota, Covid hospitalizations have been steadily climbing since the summer, straining health care systems and pushing health workers to the brink as intensive care units have filled with patients.