Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced the first three confirmed cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant in the state, according to a release.
All three cases involve residents located in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. Two of the cases are from the same household, including a vaccinated person who recently traveled to South Africa and an unvaccinated person who was in close contact with the recent traveler, the release added.
The third case, however, is unrelated and involves a vaccinated person with no known recent travel history. None of the three individuals are hospitalized and comprehensive contact tracing efforts are currently underway, according to the release.
“Thanks to our aggressive surveillance system, we have quickly identified the first cases of the omicron variant in Maryland,” Hogan said in the release. “We urge Marylanders to continue taking precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”
Hogan also encouraged residents to get vaccinated or get a booster shot to promote greater public health and safety. As the situation evolves, Hogan said the state will continue updating residents with new information as it becomes available.
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The new variant, which was found by South African scientists, has quickly spread to various parts of the world. The variant has been identified in more than 30 countries, and in U.S states such as California, New York, Colorado, Minnesota and Hawaii. The omicron variant was designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization in late November, the release added.
In Maryland, the delta variant is dominating cases, representing more than 99 percent of strains sequenced in the state and the rest of the country, according to the release. While other variants have been identified over the past year, the delta and omicron variants are the only ones considered variants of concern, the release read.
At this university, officials recently announced that cases have increased on campus following the return from Thanksgiving break. While it’s currently unknown whether these rising cases are the result of the omicron variant, university President Darryll Pines told The Diamondback that the university is closely monitoring guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state and Prince George’s County.
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Hogan and state health officials also outlined Maryland’s efforts to contain the new variant earlier this week, the release read, adding that the state plans to expand variant surveillance and provide free at-home rapid antigen tests at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
“Currently available PCR diagnostic tests and rapid antigen tests will detect COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant,” said Dr. Jinlene Chan, the state health department’s deputy secretary for public health services, in the release. “In addition to getting booster shots, we strongly recommend that Marylanders who have recently returned from international travel or are symptomatic in any way get tested immediately.”
The release also stated that scientists at both the federal and state level are working with international partners to gain a deeper understanding of the omicron variant, how easily it spreads, how severe the symptoms may be and whether the variant’s genetic changes will impact the effectiveness of current vaccines and treatments against COVID-19.
This story has been updated.