No Cases of Omicron Virus Variant Identified in US Yet: CDC

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
November 27, 2021 Updated: November 28, 2021

No cases of the new Omicron virus variant have been identified in the United States so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus variant was first seen in southern Africa earlier this month and has been designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization, which says it may be more transmissible than the Delta and Alpha strains.

“No cases of this variant have been identified in the U.S. to date,” the CDC said in a statement on Nov. 26.

“CDC is continuously monitoring variants and the U.S. variant surveillance system has reliably detected new variants in this country. We expect Omicron to be identified quickly, if it emerges in the U.S.,” the agency added.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, said on the “Today” show on Nov. 27 that he “would not be surprised” if the Omicron variant was already in the United States.

“When you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” he said.

Fauci also said the genetic mutations indicate the strain will likely be more transmissible and may evade protection by vaccines.

The strain has been detected in a number of other countries. Officials in the Netherlands said they identified 61 cases among people whose travel originated in South Africa.

In other nations, officials said they hadn’t confirmed the presence of Omicron but suspected it had already arrived.

Kai Klose, a top official in Germany, said on social media that it was “very likely” the variant was already in the country.

Several mutations “typical of Omicron” were detected in a person who was returning from South Africa, with complete sequencing not yet finished, he said.

Countries around the world, including Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United States, banned travelers from South Africa and nearby African countries over the new strain.

“These actions are taken on the basis of cautious prevention,” Greg Hunt, Australia’s health minister, told reporters during a briefing.

According to emerging evidence, the Omicron strain is more transmissible than earlier strains, including Delta, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

“The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa,” the organization said in a statement.

WHO urged countries to enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand variants of the CCP virus that are circulating, to submit data to publicly available databases, and to report to it the cases and clusters associated with any variants of concern, including Omicron.

WHO has generally discouraged travel bans, but countries have ignored that advice throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

South African officials decried the bans, saying they were essentially “punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker.”

Officials have reached out to countries that have imposed bans to try to persuade them to rescind them, South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation said.