LA County confirms case of COVID-19 omicron variant

Los Angeles County health officials today confirmed the county’s first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa and has now spread to about three dozen countries.

The patient is the second known case of the variant in California. Authorities on Wednesday confirmed the first U.S. case of the variant in a San Francisco resident. U.S. cases have also been confirmed in Minnesota, Colorado, and Hawaii.

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the local 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 LosAngeles 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.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have always known there would be more mutations, resulting in the possibility of a more dangerous variant than theDelta variant,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “While we can’t know for certain the impact of omicron at this time, the good news is that we already know how to reduce transmission and slow spread using both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions.

“I encourage everyone to take the steps that we know offer protection, including getting vaccinated or boosted, testing if you fell sick or are a close contact, and wearing your mask indoors and at large mega events.”

As of Thursday, nearly 76% of all eligible Long Beach residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to city data. Over 75% of adults are fully vaccinated against the virus, with just under 63% of the city’s population fully inoculated.

Ferrer said earlier Thursday, prior to the case being confirmed, that it was only a matter of time before the omicron variant was detected in Los Angeles.

It’s still unknown if the variant is more transmissible than other COVID strains, or if it causes more serious illness or can evade protections of current vaccines. The variant, however, is blamed for a rapid spike in cases in South Africa.

LA County Thursday reported 1,970 new coronavirus cases and 24 new deaths. Countywide, 574 people are hospitalized with the virus.

In Long Beach, meanwhile, city officials reported 47 new cases for a total of 67,193 since the onset of the pandemic. After dipping as low as 1.6% in October, the city’s seven-day positivity rate has begun inching back up and reached 2.5% Thursday.

COVID-19 hospitalizations remain stable at 51 in Long Beach-area hospitals, the city reported. Hospitalizations have remained in the high 40s and low 50s since September.

No new deaths were reported Thursday in Long Beach, leaving the total at 1,054.

Staff Writer Brandon Richardson contributed to this story.

California braces for omicron COVID variant

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