NEW YORK -- The Minnesota Department of Health announced Thursday that it has a confirmed case of the COVID-19 omicron variant in a Hennepin County resident.
Officials only identified the patient with the omicron variant as a vaccinated adult male who had recently traveled to New York City.
They said he developed mild symptoms on November 22 and sought COVID-19 testing on November 24.
The person spoke with MDH case investigators and reported traveling to New York City and attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention. Event organizers estimated 53,000 people attended the convention.
The patient was advised to isolate from others, and his symptoms have since resolved.
Minnesota epidemiologists are investigating in collaboration with New York City and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The variant was found through the Minnesota Department of Health's (MDH) variant surveillance program, which experts consider one of strongest surveillance programs in the nation.
Officials cited their robust virus surveillance system for allowing them 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.
"Since the beginning of this pandemic, Minnesota's nation-leading genome sequencing infrastructure and strong testing network have allowed the state to quickly track the COVID-19 virus and better understand its spread," Governor Tim Walz said. "Today, those tools detected a case of the omicron variant in Minnesota. This news is concerning, but it is not a surprise. We know that this virus is highly infectious and moves quickly throughout the world."
While omicron is classified by the World Health Organization as a "Variant of Concern," scientists are still working to determine how it may compare with the predominant delta variant in terms of transmissibility and disease severity.
Scientists also are studying the degree to which existing vaccines and therapies protect against omicron.
The U.S. recorded its first confirmed case of the omicron variant Wednesday - a person in California who had been to South Africa.
"We knew it was just a matter of time before the first case of omicron would be detected in the United States," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States' top infectious disease expert.
The infected person was identified as a traveler who had returned from South Africa on Nov. 22. The person, who was fully vaccinated but had not had a booster shot, tested positive on Monday and had mild symptoms that are improving, officials said. The person agreed to remain in quarantine, and all the individual's close contacts have been reached and have tested negative.
According to Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm, the new finding underscores the importance of continued efforts by all Minnesotans to limit the spread of COVID-19 in any form.
"We still have more to learn about omicron, but the most important thing we can do right now is to use the tools we have available to make it as hard as possible for this virus to spread," Malcolm said. "In addition to vaccination and boosters, we can slow the spread of this variant and all COVID-19 variants by using the tried-and-true prevention methods of wearing masks, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate.