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First case of COVID-19 omicron variant recorded in Connecticut

State officials said late Saturday they have identified the first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant in Connecticut, in a man who lives in Hartford County.

The man, who is in his 60s, developed mild symptoms on Nov. 27. An at-home test returned a positive COVID-19 result two days later and a molecular test came back positive on Dec. 1.

In a news release issued Saturday night by Gov. Ned Lamont’s office, officials noted that a family member of the man had traveled to New York City between Nov. 17 and 22 to attend the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center. The family member had mild symptoms on Nov. 21 and took an at-home test two days later, with a positive result. That person’s symptoms have resolved.

State health officials did not say whether the man lived with the family member or whether the family member was a Connecticut resident.

Late last month, a man from Minnesota tested positive for COVID-19 and was found to have contracted the omicron variant. The man had also attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Health.

During his time in New York, the Minnesota resident met up with about 35 friends, and about half have since tested positive for the coronavirus, the Washington Post reported.

COVID-19 testing on other family members of the Connecticut man is in progress. The man and his relative were both fully vaccinated.

“Given the speed that this new variant has been spreading around the world and its positive identification in several states, we presumed it was already in our state, and the information we received from the lab today confirms that,” Lamont said Saturday. “This likely is not the only case of the variant in the state.

“I must urge everyone in Connecticut not to panic. While we are still learning more about this variant, our health providers are continuing to do their best to protect everyone. We have lifesaving tools like vaccines and boosters available … and I urge everyone to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and everyone around them.”

The World Health Organization said it is not yet clear whether omicron is more transmissible or whether it causes more severe disease than other variants, such as delta.

Health officials are concerned omicron may be less susceptible to vaccines, though the vaccines’ effectiveness against the variant is not yet known. Omicron has stoked fears among public health officials because of the high number of mutations — about 50 in total, according to The New York Times.

“Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of re-infection with omicron (i.e., people who have previously had COVID-19 could become re-infected more easily with omicron), as compared to other variants of concern, but information is limited,” the WHO said in a statement.

The agency has labeled omicron a “variant of concern.”

The state’s daily positivity rate hit 5.3% on Friday, with 420 people hospitalized with the virus.

“Given the number of states that have identified omicron to date, it was only a matter of time before we identified it here in Connecticut,” Dr. Manisha Juthani, Connecticut’s public health commissioner, said Saturday. “Although omicron appears to be more infectious than the delta variant, both affected individuals have had mild symptoms to date. It is reassuring as their immunity seems to be helping them fight off this infection.”

“Vaccination and boosters are still our greatest offense,” she said. “If we can keep people out of the hospital, reducing morbidity and mortality of COVID-19, it is still a win for vaccines in our society.”

For information on where to find boosters and how to schedule an appointment, click here.

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