Fully-vaccinated traveler from South Africa is the first confirmed Omicron case in the US

The next day after the CDC announced increased surveillance at the major US airports, the first confirmed Omicron case has been detected in a fully-vaccinated traveler from South Africa.

“The California and San Francisco departments of public health and the CDC have confirmed that a recent case of COVID-19 among an individual in California was caused by Omicron variant,” Anthony Fauci said during the White House press conference earlier today. 

The individual was a fully-vaccinated traveler who returned from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive on November 29. The traveler is now self-quarantining and experiencing only mild symptoms, which appear to be improving. Fauci noted that contact tracing has been conducted, and none of the person’s close contacts have tested positive so far.

The Omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa on November 24. Chair of the South African Medical Association, Dr. Angelique Coetzee was the one who identified it. She emphasized that her patients experienced only mild symptoms and had no loss of taste or smell.


On Monday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel predicted that the Omicron variant would cause a “material drop” in the effectiveness of the vaccines.

Based on the information available so far, the new Omicron variant appears to have less severe symptoms. However, multiple countries, including the US, have implemented travel bans applying to travelers from South Africa.

WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, called on countries to follow science and international health regulations in order to avoid using travel restrictions.

“Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” Moeti said in a statement. “If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations, which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by over 190 nations.”

This is a developing story and we’ll continue following the situation; please check back for updates.

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