Health officials urge against public panic after omicron variant found in California

Coronavirus

MERCED, Calif. (KSEE) – The first confirmed case of the COVID-19 omicron variant in the United States has been found in California.

Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom made a trip to Merced to discuss the variant and the state’s next steps.

The one thing Gov. Newsom and Dr. Mark Ghaly really pushed was to not panic. The two said it’s no surprise California detected the variant first, because of the state’s biotechnology, and they say the plan is to keep being vigilant. “What’s our message in the state of California? That is to continue to do what we’ve always done,” Newsom said

State officials confirmed that the variant was detected in a fully vaccinated San Francisco resident who had just returned from a trip to South Africa and is experiencing mild symptoms.

“It’s not surprising in many respects that California is announcing the first case. This state is the birthplace, after all, of Biotech,” Newsom said

Although the individual is self-quarantining in San Francisco, Dr. Kenny Banh from UCSF Fresno predicts it’s only a matter of time before the variant reaches the Central Valley.

“There are some concerns we are watching right now about both how infectious it is, how effective vaccines will be and whether there will be some increased vaccine resistance against this, and of course, the biggest thing, how significant the disease load will be,” Dr. Banh said.

In Merced, Dr. Ghaly said a variant-specific booster shot is being prepared.

“Thank god we have the ability with our pharmaceutical partners to rapidly develop additional therapeutics and vaccines. We ask Californians who are eligible to get vaccinated and boosted and do that immediately,” Dr. Ghaly said.

Gov. Newsom says he does not see another shutdown for schools or businesses in the near future.

State health officials say they are expecting a rise in COVID-19 cases because of colder weather and holiday gatherings, but the positivity rate in California is still one of the lowest in the nation.

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