US health officials have identified a second case of the omicron coronavirus variant in a Minnesota man, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday. Unlike the first case, the man had not traveled internationally but had recently returned home to Minnesota from an anime convention in New York City attended by 53,000 people.
The case suggests that there is domestic transmission of the worrisome variant and that it has been circulating in the US undetected until now.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health and the CDC, the man is a resident of Hennepin County and traveled to New York City to attend the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from November 19 to 21. The man had been vaccinated. He developed mild symptoms on November 22 and sought COVID-19 testing on November 24. He has since recovered from the infection.
It’s particularly concerning that the resident attended the large convention, which may have been ideal for SARS-CoV-2 spread. In a tweet on November 30, Anime NYC President Peter Tatara reported that 53,000 fans attended the event this year and that the convention struggled with “challenges with crowding.”
“Everything was packed much, much more” compared with previous years, Tatara reported. “Why? We underestimated how many fans would come early and spend every moment of the weekend in the convention center.”
The convention required face coverings and vaccinations. However, according to the Anime NYC website, the organizers only required attendees to have one dose and told them they could attend “immediately after your first dose.” Each vaccine dose takes from several days to over a week to spur protective immune responses, and one dose alone does not provide strong protection against the delta variant.
“This news is concerning, but it is not a surprise,” Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said in a statement, touting the state’s testing and genetic sequencing capabilities. “We know that this virus is highly infectious and moves quickly throughout the world. Minnesotans know what to do to keep each other safe now—get the vaccine, get tested, wear a mask indoors, and get a booster. Together, we can fight this virus and help keep Minnesotans safe.”
In a statement on Thursday, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that the agency “has been actively monitoring and preparing for this variant. We have been working closely with Minnesota’s Department of Health and will continue to work diligently with other US and global public health and industry partners as we learn more.” Walensky also noted that the agency has expanded its capacity for genomic sequencing over the past nine months.
Source: Ars Technica