NJ's first case of omicron confirmed. Here's what we know

·3 min read

UPDATE: First omicron case in New Jersey arrived by plane, with positive test the same day

New Jersey has identified its first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant, state officials said late Friday.

The case was traced to a Georgia woman who traveled to New Jersey, who is fully vaccinated, and who recently traveled to South Africa, where the variant was initially reported, Gov. Phil Murphy and state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said in a statement.

On Sunday, officials confirmed that the woman arrived by plane to New Jersey on Nov. 28 – the same day she tested positive. "We notify CDC and they are responsible for notifying other potentially impacted states from the flight," said Donna Leusner, a Health Department spokeswoman.

The woman has been in isolation since Nov. 28 after she sought treatment at a hospital emergency room in North Jersey that officials would not identify. Her symptoms were moderate.

On Saturday, health officials confirmed that the woman is still in New Jersey. But they would not give out any other information on where she is quarantined or which hospital she was treated to maintain her privacy, said Dawn Thomas, a Health Department spokeswoman.

The woman arrived in New Jersey on the same day she tested positive. She had not attended any large indoor events. "Contact tracing is being prioritized" for anyone the woman came in contact with, Thomas said.

The woman is between 50 and 64 years old, Thomas said.

The hospital where the woman was treated is following standard infection prevention methods developed during the pandemic. COVID specimens from that hospital are not being given priority for genomic sequencing, which can determine if the strain is omicron.

"The department doesn’t believe that is necessary at this time," Thomas said.

Searching for omicron: Is NJ's testing network ready for the new COVID variant?

Omicron has the potential to be more transmissible than other strains, but scientists caution that it is too early to determine how fast it can spread, if it causes severe illness and how effective vaccines are against it.

The first U.S. case of the omicron variant was reported in California on Wednesday. New York identified five cases of the variant late Thursday — four cases were traced to New York City.

And after the omicron variant was detected in a Minnesota man who attended a large convention in New York City two weeks ago, New Jersey health officials this week urged any state resident who attended to get tested immediately.

Persichilli had said her staff is standing by to help track down any New Jerseyan who may have come into contact with the Minnesota man at the Anime NYC convention, which took place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

“With cases increasing and the identification of the omicron in the state, the fight against COVID-19 is not over,” Persichilli said in a statement. “We are still learning about the omicron variant, but we have tools to stop the spread of the virus, most important among them is to get vaccinated and get a booster dose."

Coronavirus is continuing to spread in New Jersey.

As of Friday, there were 1,118 COVID patients in New Jersey hospitals - the highest amount since Sept. 22. when the virus was peaking from its summer surge due to the highly transmissible delta variant. Numbers dropped in October and through mid-November but have begun to rise sharply in the past few weeks as more people gather indoors where the virus is much more transmissable.

There were about three times as many COVID patients in the hospitals a year ago when vaccines had not yet become available.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Omicron variant: NJ has first confirmed case of COVID strain