Omicron: 1st case of COVID-19 variant detected in NJ; identified as Georgia resident

ATLANTA — Officials with the Georgia Department of Public Health said Friday that they have been notified of the state’s first resident to be diagnosed with a COVID-19 infection caused by the omicron variant, WSB-TV reported.

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The person tested positive for COVID-19 in New Jersey, where they traveled after spending two days in Georgia, health officials said. Before being in Georgia, the person had traveled to South Africa.

Authorities in New Jersey said the woman tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 28 and has since been isolated. She experienced moderate symptoms of the viral infection is and recovering Friday after getting emergency room care, officials in New Jersey said.

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The woman is fully vaccinated. It was not immediately clear whether she had gotten a booster shot.

In statements released Friday, officials in Georgia and New Jersey urged people to get vaccinated to help curb the spread of the omicron variant, which was last week deemed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

“We are still learning about the omicron variant, but we have tools to stop the spread of the virus, most important among them is to get vaccinated and get a booster dose,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “The public should continue to mask up, get tested if they have symptoms, physically distance, avoid crowded events, stay home when sick and wash hands frequently.”

>> Related: Coronavirus: First case of omicron variant discovered in US

Omicron was first identified in Botswana on Nov. 11 and has since spread to several countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, confirmed that the first case of the omicron variant had been confirmed in California. Cases have since been confirmed in several states, including Minnesota, Colorado, Hawaii and New York.

Health officials have cautioned that much remains unknown about the variant, which has mutations that suggest it could be more transmissible than previous variants or more resistant to the currently available vaccines. Officials have urged people to get vaccinated or get their booster shots to protect themselves against severe illness from COVID-19.

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“Vaccination and boosters are key to preventing further transmission of COVID-19 and help prevent new variants like omicron from emerging,” Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said Friday.

As of Friday, nearly 71% of the U.S. population – 234.7 million people – has gotten at least one dose of any of the available COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 59% of Americans, or 198.2 million people, have been fully vaccinated, while about 22% of those who have been fully vaccinated have gotten booster shots, CDC data shows.

Since the start of the pandemic, officials have reported 48.9 million cases of COVID-19 nationwide, resulting in more than 787,000 deaths, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. Globally, 264.7 million cases have been reported, resulting in 5.2 million deaths, according to the university.