(Fwrd Axis) — The first confirmed case of the Omicron coronavirus variant has been detected in California, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Monday afternoon.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Adviser to President Joe Biden, said the individual traveled from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive for Covid-19 on November 29.
Both the California and San Francisco public health departments confirmed the case and the sequence was confirmed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The WHO announced last week it identified a new variant in South Africa and Biden restricted travel to its surrounding countries.
Scientists are still working to determine how transmissible the variant is and if the current vaccines work against it. Speaking on Monday, Biden said the variant is a cause for concern but not a cause for panic.
Omicron has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “variant of concern,” which has caused severe spikes in cases in South Africa amid fears over its high number of mutations, which make it potentially more transmissible.
Biden quickly restricted travel to South Africa but declined to say if he would extend those restrictions to other countries. As of this writing, Brazil, Australia, and South Africa all have been affected by the new variant.
The travel restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Other countries on the list include Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
“We don’t know very much about this yet,” Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist and the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead said. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. The concern is that when you have so many mutations it can have an impact on how the virus behaves.”