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San Diego County confirms case of COVID-19 omicron variant

The first confirmed case of the omicron variant has been found in San Diego. This after the first case in the country was found in California.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — An omicron COVID-19 case has been identified in San Diego, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced Thursday.

The new variant was identified in a San Diego resident who had recently traveled abroad.

The specimen tested positive for COVID-19 Dec. 8. The San Diego Epidemiology and Research for COVID Health (SEARCH) Alliance conducted whole genome sequencing and identified the omicron variant Thursday morning.

The patient, who had been vaccinated and received a booster, was not hospitalized and is under isolation.

The county is conducting its investigation to identify people who may have had close contact with the patient.

“We expected that the omicron variant would make its way to San Diego, and it has,” said Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., county public health officer. “We are continuing to monitor for the Omicron variant and will report any other cases to the public when they are identified.”

Just this week, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to continue the health emergency declaration implemented in 2020.

Dr. Mark Sawyer, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Rady Children's Hospital, said so far, data shows the omicron variant only causes mild symptoms in fully vaccinated people. Doctors in South Africa say the symptoms for omicron include a scratchy throat, a headache and fatigue.

“The vaccines work really well at keeping people from getting sick and put in the hospital. They don’t work so well at preventing all infection. So, unfortunately, people can still get infected. They probably get infected less frequently. That’s certainly the case with delta,” Dr. Sawyer said. 

Dr. Sawyer also says getting vaccinated, taking a booster shot and wearing masks indoors are still the best ways to decrease your chances of getting COVID-19, regardless of the variant.

The first reported case of the omicron variant in the United States was reported in California Wednesday, December 1 and the following day a case was confirmed in Los Angeles County.

The first case was a fully vaccinated San Francisco resident between the ages of 18 – 40. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the person contracted the omicron variant after returning from South Africa. The individual arrived back in the U.S. on Nov. 22 and developed mild symptoms on Nov. 25, was tested on Nov. 28 and the test came back positive on Nov. 29. Twenty-four hours later it was sequenced at the University of California, San Francisco where it was determined that it was the omicron variant.

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the second California case is a person who returned to Los Angeles after traveling to South Africa via London on Nov. 22. Health officials said the infection is "most likely travel-related." The unidentified person is a fully vaccinated adult who lives in Los Angeles County, health officials said. The person is in isolation, with symptoms that "are improving without medical care." A "small number" of close contacts in the Los Angeles area have been identified, and so far all have tested negative for the virus and none are showing any symptoms.

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