Omicron Covid variant now detected in three U.S. states after Minnesota and Colorado officials confirm new cases

Minnesota public health authorities confirmed Thursday the second U.S. case of the omicron Covid variant, in a resident who recently returned from New York City, the state’s department of health said.

The man, who was fully vaccinated and has since recovered, traveled to New York City to attend the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center Nov. 19-21, the department said in a statement. He developed symptoms shortly after returning and tested positive on Nov. 22.

Hours later, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis confirmed a third U.S. case in a woman who recently traveled to southern Africa and returned to the state. The patient was fully vaccinated but had not received a booster shot, he said at press conference. She is experiencing mild symptoms and is isolating at home, Polis said.

The governor said the extent of community transmission in the U.S. is unclear, but health authorities believe it is “very small” in Colorado. Polis said the state screens wastewater and has not yet detected omicron in the analysis. Colorado also runs genetic sequencing on about 15% of its Covid tests searching for variants and hasn’t detected other omicron cases yet, he said.

“So if it was prevalent, we would know — it doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent,” Polis said.

The first omicron case in the U.S. was confirmed in California Wednesday in a person who recently returned to San Francisco from a trip to South Africa.

New York health officials haven’t yet confirmed any cases in the state, Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters at a press conference in Manhattan on Thursday.

New York Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said it’s just a matter of time before an omicron case is confirmed somewhere in the state. “We now have an exposure. We fully expect that it will be detected in coming days,” she said.

New York City Health Commissioner David Chokshi said in a tweet that it wasn’t likely an isolated case, “meaning that there is ongoing community spread of the Omicron variant in NYC.”

Hochul said conference attendees were required to get vaccinated, and she recommended that they all get tested. She said the anime convention organizers have contact information for all attendees, so that will simplify contact tracing to monitor any potential outbreaks.

“Everyone had to be vaccinated in order to participate in the first place,” she said. “That’s why we anticipate if people who test positive, at least, based on this first individual, that the symptoms will be fairly minor.”