Officials urged thousands of attendees of a recent anime convention in New York City to get tested for covid-19 yesterday (Dec. 2) after a Minnesota man who attended the event tested positive for the omicron variant. It was the second confirmed case of omicron in the US, and occurred in a person who had been vaccinated for covid-19.
There are now 10 reported cases of the omicron coronavirus variant in the US across New York, Colorado, California, and Hawaii. The first US case was confirmed by US president Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci on Dec. 1.
“This news is concerning, but it is not a surprise,” Minnesota governor Tim Walz said in in a statement regarding the patient who attended the anime convention. He encouraged the state’s residents to continue to take the same covid-19 precautions health officials have been recommending for the past year and a half, including getting vaccinated and tested, as well as wearing a mask indoors.
The convention took place exactly two weeks ago, over the weekend of Nov. 19, at New York City’s Javits Center. It was attended by more than 50,000 people, and all were required to wear masks as well as show proof they had received at least one dose of the covid-19 vaccine. The Minnesota patient tested positive for omicron on Nov. 24, three days after the convention had ended.
In a statement New York City mayor Bill de Blasio recommended everyone who attended the convention, especially those experiencing symptoms, get “tested immediately.” The city’s health commissioner said confirmation of omicron at the event likely means there’s “ongoing community spread” of the variant in the city. NYC Anime said they’re actively working with officials on test and trace efforts.
The Minnesota department of health said the patient who tested positive for omicron had mild symptoms that have since been resolved. Thus far most reported omicron cases in the US were in fully vaccinated patients with mild symptoms, although Hawaii reported a case in an unvaccinated person with moderate symptoms.
One of the biggest questions surrounding omicron right now is how effective vaccines will be in protecting recipients against the variant. Omicron is heavily mutated, suggesting it will be resistant to antibodies present in individuals who have been vaccinated for covid-19. Even if more breakthrough cases of omicron occur, though, scientists are hopeful current vaccines will still prevent against severe cases of the disease.
As the world waits to see what direction this new variant will take, the US government is imposing new travel restrictions and urging Americans to get vaccinated, as well. While it’s not yet clear how effective booster doses will be against omicron, it’s likely that people who receive additional doses are “quite likely to have neutralizing activity against omicron,” according to a scientist who spoke to Nature.
“It’s been pretty clear for months that all adults need a 3rd shot,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University’s school of public health, said on Twitter. Irrespective of the omicron variant, he said, boosters will be necessary to get the virus under control.