Genview Diagnosis Medical Assistants Crystal Leyva (L) and Keitia Perez conduct COVID-19 sampling tests on laboratory technicians at the Foxconn Assembly on August 13, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Several southern US states, including Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Florida, have confirmed cases of the Omicron-Covid-19 variant as the heavily mutated strain takes root in half of all US states.

25 U.S. states have discovered cases of the new strain, a number that health officials expect to increase in the coming weeks, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a Covid briefing at White House on Friday. The Omicron cases come as the nation grapples with a wave of delta infections that drove Covid cases to over 100,000 a day, up 16% last week and 23% since before Thanksgiving, the data said from John Hopkins University.

Scientists are still trying to answer questions about the portability, severity, and impact of Omicron on the vaccine’s effectiveness. Meanwhile, government, commercial, and academic laboratories in the United States are stepping up genome sequencing efforts to find more cases of the variant.

Georgia

Georgia public health officials reported three cases of the variant on Thursday, all of them living in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

The first two cases were announced in a press release on Sunday. One patient developed mild symptoms and tested positive for Covid after traveling from South Africa. The state health department also said it was informed on Dec. 3 of the second patient who tested positive in New Jersey and is currently recovering there.

The department did not provide any information about the symptoms or the severity of their infections.

The third case was confirmed on Thursday in an unvaccinated person with no recent international travel history. The patient suffers from mild Covid symptoms and isolates himself at home.

The Georgia Department of Public Health is conducting contact tracing to identify close contacts among infected patients, according to a press release Thursday.

State Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said vaccination was “key” to preventing the spread of Covid and the occurrence of variants like Omicron, the press release said. She also stressed that Delta is still driving the majority of infections in the US

“It’s also important to remember that even while Omicron is being developed, we are still in the midst of a pandemic currently fueled by the Delta variant,” Toomey said.

Delta still accounts for more than 99% of all genetically sequenced cases in the US, said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walenksy during a press conference at the White House on Tuesday.

Georgia posted a seven-day moving average of 1,334 positive tests for the virus on Thursday after that number fell below 1,000 for most of November, according to the CDC. The positive tests have risen steadily since Thanksgiving, but are still well below the 7,000 to 9,000 seven-day averages seen in August.

Louisiana

Public health officials in Louisiana reported 37 cases of the Omicron variant on Thursday. However, only three cases have been confirmed and 34 are still “likely,” said the state health department in a press release.

The first likely case was reported and identified on December 3 in a metropolitan New Orleans resident who had recently traveled within the United States

Another 16 likely cases were reported on Wednesday, while 20 became known on Thursday alone.

At least 28 probable cases and 2 confirmed cases are among residents of the greater New Orleans area. Three likely cases are in patients in the Baton Rouge area. Two likely cases are in patients from northwest Louisiana.

There is also a confirmed case in a resident of Northshore, a neighborhood in Louisiana.

The country’s health department did not provide any further information on the severity of the infections. The department only found that another patient from the Acadiana area had recently traveled internationally but did not need to be hospitalized after testing positive.

“These new cases of Omicron should serve as a reminder of the ongoing threat from COVID, especially as we gather for the holidays,” said state health officer Dr. Joseph Kanter, in the press release, urged the citizens of Louisiana to get vaccinated and reinforced.

Louisiana recorded 439 new cases on Thursday, still below its October high when the seven-day average hit 530, according to the CDC.

Texas

The Texas State Health Department on Monday confirmed its first case of Omicron in a resident of Harris County, where Houston is located. The department determined that the patient was an adult woman but did not provide any further information about her symptoms or when she tested positive.

Harris County Public Health and the Texas Department of State Health Services are currently investigating the case.

“It is normal for viruses to mutate, and given the rapid spread of omicron in southern Africa, we are not surprised it showed up here,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, the officer for the state health department.

Texas recorded a 7-day moving average of 2,554 cases on Thursday, according to data from the CDC. That number is well below the previous months, with the 7-day moving average hitting up to 9,000 in October and 19,000 in September.

Florida

Two cases of the Omicron variant had been reported in Florida as of Thursday, a state health department spokesman told CNBC.

The department was briefed on the first patient by the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, the spokesman said, noting that they cannot provide details on the case.

The hospital stated in a statement to the WFLA that the patient has mild symptoms and has recently traveled internationally.

“Our vendors were able to quickly identify, test, confirm, and add this data to our evolving understanding of this variety,” the hospital said, according to the WFLA.

The second case from St. Lucie County was reported to the CDC by the state health department, the spokesman added. They did not provide any further details on the case.

When asked about reports of the new Omicron cases at a news conference Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he would not impose bans in the state.

“In Florida we won’t let them lock you up, we won’t let them restrict you, we won’t let them impose mandates, we won’t let them close schools, we will protect your freedom” Making decisions, “DeSantis told reporters.

“And I have no problem if someone is worried, if they are afraid of Omicron and want to lock themselves up or isolate themselves, that is absolutely their choice in a free society, but you don’t force fauciism on the whole country or the whole state, it’s wrong, “he continued.

According to the CDC, Florida had a seven-day moving average of 1,873 positive tests for the virus on Thursday. That number has risen in the past few weeks, most recently reaching 1,800 new cases per day on October 28th.

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