Long Beach reports first case of community spread for COVID-19 omicron variant

An unvaccinated person who had not recently traveled internationally or domestically has contracted the COVID-19 omicron variant, indicating the first case of community spread for the highly-contagious virus mutation, city officials said Friday.

The city reported its first case of the omicron variant on Dec. 7 from a fully-vaccinated person who had traveled internationally in November. That person was asymptomatic.

Now, it appears the city has seen its first locally-acquired case in an unvaccinated individual who has not traveled. That person experienced symptoms including “cough, runny nose, sore throat, and fatigue” was resting at home, officials said. 

“As of now, the impact of Omicron is not fully known, but everyone is urged to reduce COVID-19 transmission by getting vaccinated or boosted, wearing masks indoors and at large outdoor events, and by getting tested when feeling sick or if exposed to COVID-19,” health officials said in a statement Friday.

While the omicron variant may be more contagious than other variants, the delta variant remains the dominant strain in Long Beach for now, officials said.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, meanwhile, have been rising in Los Angeles County.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Thursday said 30 cases of omicron have now been detected in Los Angeles County. Of the 30, 24 were among fully vaccinated people, four of whom had booster shots.

Ferrer added that there is no evidence to suggest that the new variant causes more severe symptoms than previous versions—but it is more transmissible than other variants.

According to a University of Hong Kong study released Wednesday, the omicron variant infects people around 70 times faster than the currently dominant delta variant and the original COVID-19 strain, though the severity of illness is likely to be much lower.

“Based on the data collected to date, we anticipate that Omicron will circulate more widely in L.A. County in the very near future, leading to many more cases over a short period of time, particularly given increased gatherings with travel over the winter holiday,” Ferrer said.

Amid the growing threat, health officials have announced stricter rules for gatherings. Anyone attending indoor or outdoor mega-events in the county who cannot provide proof of full vaccination is required to provide proof of a negative COVID test within one day (if antigen test) or two days (if PCR test) of the event.

The Long Beach Department of Health and HumanServices on Friday began offering Pfizer COVID-19 boosters for 16- and 17-year-olds. Boosters were previously authorized only for those 18 and older, but the effort follows approval for Federal Drug Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For those looking to get vaccinated or get a booster, the city offers vaccine clinics six days a week: the schedule can be found at longbeach.gov/vaxlb. No appointment is necessary at city-run vaccine clinics. People also may contact their healthcare provider or area pharmacies or visit myturn.ca.gov to make a vaccine appointment. Vaccines are available to everyone 5 years old and older, regardless of immigration status, and are always free of charge.

– City News Service contributed to this report 

Vaccinated residents over 16 can get COVID-19 Pfizer booster shot starting Friday

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].