U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky on Sunday warned that Omicron cases in the United States are likely to rise as the Covid-19 variant has already been detected in 17 states.
Appearing in a popular TV news program, Walensky said the agency was “closely” following the several dozen cases it has been made aware of while working to determine how transmissible the variant is and how effective currently available Covid-19 vaccines are at combatting infections.
“We are every day hearing about more and more probable cases so that number is likely to rise,” Walensky said.
The first case of Omicron in the United States was reported in California on Wednesday with subsequent cases discovered in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin. Georgia and Louisiana were added to the list Sunday.
Some cases came from patients who recently traveled to South Africa, where scientists first identified the variant, while others had no travel history, potentially indicating community spread.
A preprint study from researchers from Cambridge, Mass.-based firm, Nference, found that the Omicron variant shares a snippet of genetic code with a coronavirus that can cause the common cold, potentially making it more transmissible and resistant to some immunities.
Walensky on Sunday said the CDC was still studying how Omicron differs from other variants.
“We know it has many mutations, more mutations than prior variants,” she said. “Many of those mutations have been associated with more transmissible variants, with evasion of some of our therapeutics and potentially evasion of some of our immunity, and that’s what we’re watching really carefully.”
The United States has reported a total of 49.073 million cases and 788,310 Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic as Walensky said Sunday that “99.9 percent” of new cases continue to be the Delta variant despite Omicron rapidly spreading in South Africa and becoming the dominant strain.
She added she was “hopeful” current vaccines will work to at least prevent severe disease from the virus as CDC data shows that 70.9 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one vaccine dose, 59.8 percent of people are fully vaccinated and 22.8 percent of fully vaccinated Americans have received an additional booster dose.