Riverside County health officials reported the first confirmed case of the Omicron variant on Friday.
Officials said it was found in a 41-year-old fully vaccinated man from the western part of the county. Officials received confirmation this week.
County health officials said they are investigating whether the man had traveled before being tested for COVID-19 in Los Angeles County on Dec. 8. The sample tested positive and was sent to a laboratory for genome sequencing, which showed positive for the Omicron variant.
“We knew that it was likely the variant would eventually arrive in Riverside County, so this is no surprise or cause for widespread concern,” said Kim Saruwatari, director of Public Health. “The same steps that helped protect us against the virus in the past remain in place.”
The man is not being identified because of confidentiality guidelines.
“The reporting of this case reminds us of the importance of taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in all its forms,” said Dr. Geoffrey Leung, Riverside County public health officer. “The most critical of these steps is to get your first vaccine dose if you haven’t already, and then complete the vaccination series and booster to reduce the spread and prevent severe complications from COVID-19.”
The variant was first reported in South Africa on Nov. 9 and quickly spread to other countries. State health officials on Dec. 1 reported the first case in California from a traveler who had returned to San Francisco from South Africa late last month. The patient had what was described as mild symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, but it is still unknown how easily Omicron spreads compared to the Delta variant remains unknown.
In addition to vaccination, officials are encouraging residents to continue to wear facemasks, avoid large public gatherings and wash their hands frequently.
COVID-19 vaccines have been available in Riverside County since December 2020, and more than 3.4 million doses have been administered between Public Health clinics and those operated by community partners, such as pharmacies, hospitals, private health providers and private clinics.
Vaccines are available for anyone 5 years and older and boosters are available for anyone 16 and older.
Those seeking information about locations for clinics or to make an appointment can use https://myturn.ca.gov or call 951-358-5000.
For more information about the vaccine or COVID-19, click www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus.
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