Louisiana Department of Health announces first confirmed Omicron case

By William Patrick, The Center Square

The Louisiana Department of Health has announced the state’s first confirmed case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, which was discovered shortly after Gov. John Bel Edwards said there were no known cases in Louisiana.

Edwards addressed the emerging variant in a Friday news conference, not knowing that health officials in the greater New Orleans area would identify a probable Omicron infection later that day.

The Health Department has since verified the infection, saying on social media, “The probable case of the #Omicron variant we reported earlier this weekend is now confirmed.”

“We now know Omicron is here in Louisiana. This is cause for concern, but not panic,” said State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter. “We have been expecting and preparing for this moment. To all Louisianans, the single best action you can take to protect yourselves and your families is to get yourself and loved ones vaccinated and boosted if eligible.”

The infected patient was said to have recently traveled outside the country. No other information patient information has been provided.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the new COVID-19 strain as a “variant of concern” on Nov. 26, after it was first discovered in South Africa.

Omicron has since been detected in more than 30 countries and at least nine states, the Health Department said, adding that data collection is still in early stages.

“There is concern this new variant may be more transmissible than previous strains and that Omicron may carry an increased risk of reinfection compared to other variants of concern. We expect to learn more about Omicron in the coming days,” a Health Department statement reads.

Kanter explained that the variant has 50 mutations, which he said presents “theoretical concerns” until health information proves otherwise.

“As the days and weeks go on, we will either verify or reject those concerns as more data comes in,” he said.

Edwards, a strong vaccine proponent, endorsed the Health Department’s recommendation for all eligible Louisianans to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible, including boosters. The state’s vaccination rate is 49%, Edwards said.

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