1st COVID-19 case caused by Omicron variant discovered in El Dorado County
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The first coronavirus case caused by the Omicron variant has been confirmed in El Dorado County, health officials announced Friday evening.
The El Dorado County case occurred in a traveler who departed from South Africa in late November. The county resident who tested negative at the time of departure and was asymptomatic, developed mild symptoms and tested positive several days after completing travel, said a press release from health officials.
Because travelers from South Africa were being monitored for this variant and instructed to quarantine or isolate, the risk of this case resulting in additional cases was minimized.
“This was not unexpected,” says El Dorado County Public Health Officer Dr. Nancy Williams in the release. “The variant has already been detected in at least 25 U.S. states, including California. Since the first case involving a California resident (which was also the first in the U.S.) was identified on Dec. 1, in a traveler who had returned from South Africa on Nov. 22, several other California counties have identified cases among their residents.”
The Omicron variant was first declared to be a COVID-19 variant of concern on Nov. 26 by the World Health Organization following discovery of numerous cases in South Africa.
While early data indicates that Omicron causes milder disease, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.
“To date, we have no evidence of community transmission of the Omicron variant in El Dorado County.” Williams said. “However, because it is believed to be more easily transmitted than prior variants, including the currently dominant Delta variant, we are likely to see other cases in the future.”
Williams says it’s important to continue to protect against acquiring infection or transmitting it to others.
She emphasized that this variant evolved, as prior ones have, through mutations that occurred while the virus replicated in an infected person’s body.
“Allowing the virus opportunities to continue to mutate through infections of others increases the probabilities of further mutations and, undoubtedly, more new variants,” Williams said. “We won’t be able to stop this entirely, but to reach a state of living that is closer to normal, we need to slow transmission of all COVID-19 variants.”
According to Williams, vaccination remains the most important tool to protect against serious COVID-19 illnesses. Continuing to take other precautions is also important, especially during the holiday season when people spend more time indoors, and sometimes in large gatherings, with family members and friends who may have traveled to or from places with high COVID rates.
For more information about the Omicron Variant, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html.
For more information about making vaccination appointments, visit https://myturn.ca.gov/.
The Tahoe Daily Tribune is a sister publication of the Sierra Sun.
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Nevada County Director of Health and Human Services Ryan Gruver identified the county’s increased case rate as part of “the early stages of a large Omicron surge” during a press conference Wednesday.