LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County has confirmed its second case of the omicron variant of COVID-19. The new patient is a college student who traveled to the East Coast over Thanksgiving. The person is fully vaccinated, had only mild symptoms and is in isolation.
According to the county's health department, all of the individual's close contacts in Los Angeles County have been identified and are currently quarantined and being tested. Public Health is also working with the university to determine if there are any additional close contacts.
The individual is a student at the University of Southern California, according to the chief health officer of USC Student Health.
Based on travel history, it is likely that the infection was acquired outside of Los Angeles County, health officials said.
"While we are still determining the transmissibility and the severity of Omicron, I encourage residents and travelers to take additional steps to protect yourself and those around you by getting vaccinated or boosters, tested if you feel sick or are a close contact, and wearing your mask," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. "Layering on as many protections as possible will give us a better opportunity to slow the spread of this potentially dangerous variant as we prepare for holiday gatherings and a potential winter surge."
Out of concern for the Omicron variant and its potential impact, Los Angeles County has modified its public health order, requiring all residents, staff and contractors at skilled nursing facilities to undergo COVID testing at least once a week, regardless of vaccination status. All visitors to skilled nursing facilities will have to provide proof of either a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the visit, or a negative antigen test taken within 24 hours of the visit. Antigen tests will be made available for visitors at the nursing facilities.
People who have proof of a documented recovery from a COVID infection within 90 days will be exempted from the weekly testing requirement or the negative-test requirement for visiting a nursing facility.
The temporary order will be in effect beginning Dec. 15 and continuing through Jan. 31.
Los Angeles County has begun seeing a slight rise in daily COVID-19 infections numbers in recent days, possibly a reflection of Thanksgiving holiday gatherings. Hospitalizations due to the virus have also climbed upward, again topping 600 on Monday.
According to state figures, there were 629 COVID-19-positive people in Los Angeles County hospitals as of Monday, up from 595 on Sunday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 151, up from 146 a day earlier.
The county on Monday reported 1,103 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths associated with the virus -- low numbers that likely reflect weekend reporting delays.
The county has logged 1,537,450 cases and 27,248 fatalities since the pandemic began.
The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 1.2% as of Monday.
Just last week, the county identified its first case of the new omicron variant. The individual who tested positive for the variant returned to Los Angeles County after traveling to South Africa from London on Nov. 22.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a new policy for all travelers on inbound flights to the U.S. The new guidance requires all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of boarding their flights, down from the previous three days for those who have been vaccinated.
The omicron variant was first classified by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26. It was first detected in Africa and Europe. There are many unanswered questions surrounding the new variant, including whether it is more contagious than previous strains, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether the vaccine is effective against it.
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CNS contributed to this report.