Covid News: Biden to extend mask mandate for travel


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California Officials Address First U.S. Omicron Case

Authorities have confirmed that the first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the United States has been reported in San Francisco and have assured the public the city is ready to deal with the virus.

“Through a sequencing process at UCSF, identified the first known case and officially released this case with respect to the Omicron variant. This individual, who resides in San Francisco, was fully vaccinated, had recently traveled to South Africa, started it – instead started returning to the US on the 21st, landed on the 22nd. not been hospitalized. The people this person has been in contact with have not yet tested positive, to our knowledge, and we hope for a full recovery and expect nothing less, based on what we have learned. “The evidence that an individual with Omicron, identified by sequencing, actually has mild symptoms, is improving, I think that speaks to the importance of vaccinations. “We knew Omicron was going to be here. We thought it would – it was already there, we just hadn’t detected it yet. It is therefore a matter of concern. But it is certainly not a cause for panic either. We are prepared here in the city for it.

Authorities have confirmed that the first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the United States has been reported in San Francisco and have assured the public the city is ready to deal with the virus.CreditCredit…Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

The first U.S. case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was reported in California on Wednesday, prompting officials in the Biden administration to renew their urgent appeals for Americans to be fully immunized and, if eligible, a booster.

The patient, a traveler who returned from South Africa to California on November 22, is in isolation and aggressive contact tracing is underway, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement, adding that the individual was fully vaccinated and had mild symptoms that were improving. Close contacts of the individuals had tested negative, the agency said.

The World Health Organization has warned that the risk posed by the variant, a new iteration of the coronavirus first detected in southern Africa, is “very high”. More than 20 countries have found the variant so far.

Public health officials around the world have said for days that they expect the new, mutated form of the virus to quickly find its way to the United States despite a travel ban being imposed on travelers. internationals from eight southern African countries, a decision several other countries have also taken.

But confirmation of the variant’s presence has nonetheless been a blow to President Biden’s efforts to deliver on his campaign pledge to end the pandemic swiftly and permanently. At the White House on Wednesday, Biden said “we are learning more every day” and he pledged the administration “will fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion.”

Shortly after, Dr Anthony S. Fauci, the president’s senior medical adviser, told reporters that confirmation of the new variant in the United States should persuade unvaccinated Americans to get the vaccine immediately.

“We have 60 million people in this country who are not vaccinated who are eligible to be vaccinated,” Dr Fauci said. “Let’s get them vaccinated. Let’s vaccinate people, boost. Let’s get the children vaccinated.

Dr Fauci expressed optimism that the country would eventually come out of the grip of the pandemic, saying that “there is no doubt it will end.” But he also urged caution, saying health officials are still unaware of a lot about the new variant.

Omicron carries over 50 genetic mutations that, in theory, can make it both more contagious and less vulnerable to the body’s immune defenses than previous variants. More than 30 of the mutations are found in the tip of the virus, a protein on its surface. Vaccines train the body’s immune defenses to target and attack the peak.

The vaccines available can still offer substantial protection against serious illness and death from infection with the variant, and federal authorities are calling on people who have been vaccinated to be vaccinated. The makers of the two most effective vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are preparing to reformulate their vaccines if necessary, but this will take time.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the infected person had not been hospitalized. The governor said the individual began to experience mild symptoms on November 25, was tested on Sunday and tested positive on Monday. Within a day, scientists at the University of California at San Francisco determined it to be Omicron.

California health officials have said the state is increasing testing for coronavirus at airports, focusing on arrivals from countries identified by the CDC as potential sources of the virus. Sir. Newsom said the state will not be stepping up public health restrictions, at least in the short term, but that “we should assume that is the case in other states as well.”

“There is no reason to panic, but we must remain vigilant,” he said in a statement.

San Francisco City Health Director Dr Grant Colfax added that “we are still learning about the Omicron variant, but we are not back to square one with this disease.”

In California, some 79 percent of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, after months of campaigning by state officials. Cases and hospitalizations have largely followed a downward trend since a summer increase due to the Delta variant.

Following news of the spread of the variant in South Africa, countries around the world have cut back on air travel to and from southern Africa, measures authorities have called too punitive , especially given that Western countries have not provided enough vaccines and logistical support. to the mainland.

Dutch officials said on Tuesday they identified cases of the variant a week before Friday, when 13 passengers arriving on flights from South Africa tested positive, signaling that the variant was already present.

The WHO says the emergence of Omicron results from the inequality of vaccines in poor countries. Despite this, some countries, including Britain and the United States, have redoubled their efforts to persuade citizens to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.


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