Connecticut on Saturday night reported its first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19, which is believed to be more contagious than previous strains.
The person who tested positive was a man in his 60s in Hartford County, who may have been infected by a family member who attended the Anime NYC convention in New York, according Gov. Ned Lamont’s office.
“This likely is not the only case of the variant in the state,” Lamont said in a statement. “That being said, I must urge everyone in Connecticut not to panic. While we are still learning more about this variant, our health providers are continuing to do their best to protect everyone.”
The man who tested positive, who was fully vaccinated, developed mild symptoms on Nov. 27 and was tested on Nov. 29. His sample was then sequenced by the Department of Public Health, which detected the omicron variant.
“Although omicron appears to be more infectious than the delta variant, both affected individuals have had mild symptoms to date,” Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani said in a statement. “It is reassuring as their immunity seems to be helping them fight off this infection. Vaccination and boosters are still our greatest offense. If we can keep people out of the hospital, reducing morbidity and mortality of COVID-19, it is still a win for vaccines in our society.”
The new strain arrives at a time when Connecticut’s COVID-19 numbers are already on the rise — a trend experts have attributed to cold weather forcing people indoors, where transmission occurs more easily. As of Friday, the state had averaged 972 daily cases over the past week, most in a seven-day period since April.
First detected in South Africa, the omicron variant has since been found in dozens of countries, including Canada and the United States. In Connecticut, officials have warned for several weeks that the variant would likely arrive soon and have pleaded with residents to get booster shots as a precaution.
Though researchers lack full understanding of the omicron variant’s properties, evidence points to increased transmissibility and an enhanced risk of reinfection for those who have already had COVID-19. It is so far unclear the degree to which the new variant can break through vaccine immunity.
The World Health Organization, which has classified omicron as a “variant of concern” suggests safety measures including vaccination, masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improved ventilation of indoor spaces, and avoidance of crowded spaces.
Alex Putterman can be reached at email@example.com.