Omicron variant found in Midwest as Minnesota confirms first case

MINNEAPOLIS — The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has now been detected in the Midwest, as health officials in Minnesota announced Thursday morning they have confirmed their first case.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the variant was found in a Minnesota man from Hennepin County who had recently traveled to New York City. Health officials say the man had been vaccinated and got a COVID test on November 24 after starting to feel mild symptoms two days before. The man’s symptoms have since subsided.

The variant was detected through the state’s virus surveillance system, something health officials there say made it likely Minnesota would be one of the first states to find the variant.

“This news is concerning, but it is not a surprise,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said in a statement. “We know that this virus is highly infectious and moves quickly throughout the world. Minnesotans know what to do to keep each other safe now — get the vaccine, get tested, wear a mask indoors, and get a booster.”

Omicron has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, but Minnesota health officials are reminding people that scientists are still working to figure out how it comes to the Delta variant when it comes to how easily it spreads and how severe the disease is.

Because there is still so much to learn about Omicron, Minnesota’s Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm says it’s important to limit the spread of all forms of COVID-19.

“The most important thing we can do right now is to use the tools we have available to make it as hard as possible for this virus to spread,” Commissioner Malcolm said in a statement.