Los Angeles County confirms first case of omicron variant

Los Angeles County on Thursday confirmed its first local case of the omicron COVID-19 variant, a day after the first U.S. case of the variant was reported in Northern California

According to the county's Department of Public Health, the individual who tested positive for the variant returned to Los Angeles County after traveling to South Africa from London on Nov. 22. 

"This infection is most likely travel-related," the department wrote in a press release.

The health department said that the individual is a Los Angeles County resident and is fully vaccinated. The person is self-isolating and their symptoms are said to be improving without medical care. A small number of close contacts in Los Angeles have been identified and, to date, all have tested negative and have no symptoms.  

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"Throughout the pandemic, we have always known there would be more mutations, resulting in the possibility of a more dangerous variant than the Delta variant," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. "While we can’t know for certain the impact of Omicron at this time, the good news is that we already know how to reduce transmission and slow spread using both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions. I encourage everyone to take the steps that we know offer protection, including getting vaccinated or boosted, tested if you feel sick or are a close contact, and wearing your mask indoors and at large mega events."

According to county health officials, beginning Friday, international travelers arriving at the LAX international terminal will be offered free rapid COVID-19 tests and information on federal recommendations for quarantining and testing.   

On Wednesday, the first U.S. case of the omicron COVID-19 variant was detected in California, the White House announced. The individual who tested positive for the variant was a traveler who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive on Nov. 29. That person was fully vaccinated but had not received a booster shot, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

RELATED: First U.S. case of omicron COVID-19 variant detected in California

After confirmation of the omicron variant in California, Governor Gavin Newsom held a press conference and said that the new variant shouldn’t force another shutdown heading into the holidays.

"Look, I’m confident if we continue to do what we’ve done, which is continue to be in the top 10 in terms of the lowest case rates and on the highest vaccination rates, on the lowest positivity rate, that won’t be an issue," he said Wednesday. 

RELATED: Newsom: Omicron variant won’t spark California shutdown

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. 

RELATED: US to require all inbound travelers to take COVID-19 test 1 day before flight

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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