2 hr 8 min agoSecond US case of Omicron variant found in Minnesota From CNN’s Adrienne Vogt and Jamie Gumbrecht
The second case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the United States has been identified in Minnesota, according to a statement from state health officials.
The state’s Public Health Laboratory found the variant in a specimen from a Minnesota resident with recent travel history to New York City.
The person with the Omicron variant is an adult male, is a resident of Hennepin County and had been vaccinated, according to officials.
The person developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22 and got tested on Nov. 24. They had traveled to New York City and attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19-21. Health officials expect to find more cases of the variant as genetic sequencing continues around the country. The United States’ first case was identified in California on Wednesday. Since the World Health Organization designated Omicron a variant of concern, health officials have made clear they expect to find cases in the United States. However, the Delta variant of the coronavirus remains the dominant variant globally and in the United States.
Minnesota epidemiologists said they will continue to investigate and collaborate with New York City researchers and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Having a robust virus surveillance system in place allowed MDH to quickly identify Omicron once it entered the state and made it more likely that Minnesota would be among the first states to find the variant,” according to the statement.
Minnesota health officials continue to encourage residents to get vaccinated and get their booster shots, as well as practice social distancing, head-washing and mask-wearing.
2 hr 50 min agoTravel bans won’t keep cases out of countries, WHO spokesperson saysFrom CNN’s Naomi Thomas
Travel bans will not keep Omicron cases out of countries, but if they are put in place, they should be used well to buy time, Dr. Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, told CNN Thursday.
“Dr. Fauci is right that if you do do something as drastic as a travel ban, use it well to buy time,” Harris said about the top US infectious disease expert’s comments about the effectiveness of temporary travel bans. “But we do know that it won’t keep cases out. Usually, by the time where countries are aware that there is a risk of importation, that’s already happened.”The duration of a travel ban should be used to ramp up surveillance, including looking at how and where people will be tested, and what will happen when there are positive cases, what the situation is in hospitals, how vaccination can be accelerated, and how to advise people and help them protect themselves, she added.
WHO has issued guidance against travel bans.
“The reason we’re not keen on travel bans is not just because it harms the countries that you’re shutting your borders to, but also it really limits the spread of critical things like the scientific materials you need, the humanitarian supplies you need to respond to something like this outbreak,” Harris said.
She also spoke about how much of a time lag there is in countries that are thought to have Omicron and the countries that actually do.
“Probably there are many more countries, we expect, that already do have cases of SARS-CoV-2, the Omicron variant,” she said. “It is simply a matter really of testing.”
2 hr 58 min agoOmicron cases could soon be responsible for “over half” of Europe’s Covid-19 infections, agency saysFrom CNN’s Niamh Kennedy and James Frater in London
Andrea Ammon director of European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control gives a press conference on the outbreak of Covid-19 also known as Coronavirus in Italy, on February 26, 2020 in Rome. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)The Omicron variant could be responsible for “over half” of all coronavirus infections in wider Europe within the next few months, according to the European Center for Disease and Control Prevention (ECDC).
A news release from the ECDC Thursday said that preliminary data based on mathematical modeling of Omicron “suggests a substantial advantage over the Delta variant.”
“The greater Omicron’s growth advantage over Delta and the greater its circulation in the EU/EEA, the shorter the expected time until Omicron causes most of all SARS-CoV-2 infections,” it said.
Andrea Ammon, director of the ECDC, remarked that a “large number of factors” remain that “can change the dynamics of the situation,” adding the caveat that the evidence the ECDC has so far is limited.
In the face of this limited data, a “multi-layered approach” is required to delay the spread of Omicron, the ECDC said.
The rollout of vaccines to the unvaccinated and booster doses to people over 40 remains “imperative,” Ammon said, adding that physical distancing measures, adequate ventilation in enclosed spaces and working from home if feeling ill are also examples of helpful measures.
The ECDC advised that any temporary travel-related measures ought to “be carefully considered in light of the latest epidemiological situation” and “regularly reviewed as new evidence emerges.”
2 hr 55 min agoWhite House official: Biden’s winter Covid-19 strategy will “help accelerate our path out of the pandemic”From CNN’s Betsy Klein
Jeff Zients, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to head the White House’s coronavirus response, speaks during a news conference at the Queen Theater December 08, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Ahead of President Biden’s visit to the National Institutes of Health this afternoon, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said that the measures in Biden’s winter Covid-19 strategy “will all help accelerate our path out of the pandemic and protect Americans.”
Zients touted new measures in the strategy released this morning during an appearance on MSNBC, including a national campaign for booster shots, hundreds of new family vaccination sites, at-home testing covered by insurance going forward, and tens of millions of free at-home tests.
He declined to say whether Americans should expect enhancements to existing vaccine mandates, instead reiterating that vaccine requirements “work” and lead to “significant increases” in the vaccination rate.
Pressed on whether there could be a domestic travel vaccine requirement, Zients noted that the administration is extending its domestic travel masking policy, but sa
Second US case of Omicron variant found
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