Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

1st known Omicron death in U.S. reported in Texas

An unvaccinated man from the Houston area who died Monday is believed to be the first recorded death in the United States linked to the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Health officials in Texas revealed that the man, who was in his 50s, tested positive for the Omicron variant while he was still alive. The Harris County Public Health Department said the man had previously been infected with the coronavirus, and "was at a higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 due to his unvaccinated status and had underlying health conditions."

The Omicron variant was first detected in southern Africa in late November, and last week, became the dominant strain in known, new U.S. cases. Harris County's top public official, Judge Lina Hidalgo, said Monday Omicron is spreading quickly through the region, and The New York Times found the county on average is reporting more than 2,000 new cases daily — more than five times the average from two weeks ago.

Roughly 59 percent of adults in Harris County are fully vaccinated, and Hidalgo made it clear that while breakthrough COVID-19 infections are happening, "that does not mean the vaccine doesn't work. On the contrary, the evidence shows the vaccine is going to keep you out of the hospital." She encouraged people, especially those 65 and older, to get their boosters, saying it's one way to "give yourself, give your family, the gift of health."