1st case of omicron variant detected in L.A. County

Coronavirus

The first detected case of the omicron COVID variant has been confirmed in Los Angeles County, public health officials announced Thursday.

The individual returned to L.A. County after travel to South Africa via London on Nov. 22, and the infection is “most likely travel-related,” the Department of Public Health said in a news release.

The infected person, who is a fully vaccinated adult and county resident, is self-isolating, and their symptoms are improving without medical care, according to the department.

A small number of close contacts in L.A. have been identified and, to date, all have tested negative and have no symptoms.

The case is the second detected in California, with the first confirmed infection reported Wednesday in a San Francisco resident who had recently traveled to South Africa and developed mild coronavirus symptoms after returning on Nov. 22, authorities said.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have always known there would be more mutations, resulting in the possibility of a more dangerous variant than the Delta variant,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “While we can’t know for certain the impact of Omicron at this time, the good news is that we already know how to reduce transmission and slow spread using both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions. I encourage everyone to take the steps that we know offer protection, including getting vaccinated or boosted, tested if you feel sick or are a close contact, and wearing your mask indoors and at large mega events.”

The department encouraged residents who traveled for the holidays to get tested, whether they went overseas or to locations in the U.S. with high transmission rates, or if they participated in gatherings and events with large numbers of people, some of whom may be unvaccinated.

“The vaccines are effective against the Delta variant and earlier strains of the virus, which allows us to remain hopeful that the approved vaccines will also provide some protection against Omicron,” the department said.

Public health officials also remind residents that they are legally required to isolate if they have a positive COVID test result. And, vaccinated close contacts with symptoms and unvaccinated close contacts need to quarantine.

Starting Friday, travelers arriving at the international terminal of the Los Angeles International Airport will be offered free rapid coronavirus tests and information on federal recommendations for quarantining and testing.

Those who have been in a country reporting the omicron variant in the last two weeks should get tested before leaving the airport and again three to five days later, health officials urge. Travelers should also quarantine for seven day, even if they get a negative test result. If a test is positive, isolate for 10 days.

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