Minnesota health officials said on Thursday that a man who lives in the state was infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The man, who officials said had recently traveled to New York City, represents the second known case of the variant in the United States.
Leaders in Minnesota said the discovery was unsurprising, and credited robust disease surveillance systems for finding it.
“This news is concerning, but it is not a surprise,” Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement. “We know that this virus is highly infectious and moves quickly throughout the world. Minnesotans know what to do to keep each other safe now — get the vaccine, get tested, wear a mask indoors, and get a booster.”
Much remains unknown about Omicron, including whether it is more transmissible and capable of causing more serious illness. There is some evidence the variant can reinfect people more readily.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the man is a resident of Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis. He had been vaccinated and is no longer feeling symptoms, the department said.
The man first developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22, shortly after traveling to New York City for the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center, the department said. The announcement did not indicate whether the man had traveled anywhere else recently.
He was tested for the virus on Nov. 24. The state’s Public Health Laboratory determined that he had the Omicron variant. Minnesota officials said they were working with New York City and federal health officials to look into the case, and that the man has spoken with case investigators.
On Wednesday, California health officials announced that a San Francisco resident had been infected with the Omicron variant — a finding they emphasized was inevitable, as they worked to contain alarm over the variant’s discovery in the United States.
Experts have said since the Omicron variant was first identified that it was only a matter of time before the variant made its way to the United States, and that once a case was detected, many more would probably soon be found.
“I’m personally surprised it took this long” for the first case to appear, Dr. Bob Wachter, a professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said on Wednesday. “Today it’s in California, tomorrow it’ll be several other states.”