First Omicron COVID-19 case confirmed in the U.S.: 'It was just a matter of time'

Anthony Fauci
(Image credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the United States for the first time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that an individual in California has tested positive for the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 after returning to the U.S. from South Africa on Nov. 22. The person was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and they had "mild symptoms that are improving." All of their close contacts have tested negative, and they're currently self-quarantining, the CDC said.

During a White House press briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that "to my knowledge," the person had not received a booster shot.

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"We knew that it was just a matter of time before the first case of Omicron would be detected in the United States," Fauci said.

Much is still unknown about the new Omicron COVID-19 variant that was first identified in South Africa, and President Biden was told by his COVID-19 team this week that the variant's threat profile won't be known for about two weeks. During Wednesday's briefing, Fauci said "we feel good" that the individual who tested positive had mild symptoms that are improving, but he cautioned that broader conclusions about the variant shouldn't be drawn from "a single patient."

Fauci also urged Americans to receive a booster vaccine if they're eligible rather than wait for a potential Omicron-specific booster, as he noted "we may not need" such a booster even though officials are preparing for that possibility.

"The mistake people would make is to say, 'Let me wait and see if we get one,'" Fauci said. "If you're eligible for boosting, get boosted right now."

President Biden earlier this week vowed his administration would "fight and beat" the new COVID-19 variant, which he described as a "cause for concern," but "not a cause for panic."

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.