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Omicron variant found in nearly one-third of U.S. states

WorldDec 05, 2021 06:31PM ET
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3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Travellers check a departures list at the ticketing level of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport before the Thanksgiving holiday in Seattle, Washington, U.S. November 24, 2021. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo/File Photo 2/3

By Matt Spetalnick and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has spread to about one-third of U.S. states, but the Delta version remains the majority of COVID-19 infections as cases rise nationwide, U.S. health officials said on Sunday.

Though the emergence of the new variant has caused alarm worldwide, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, told CNN "thus far it does not look like there's a great degree of severity to it." He added that it was too early to draw definitive conclusions and that more study is needed.

Fauci, U.S. President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, said he also hoped the United States would lift its ban on travelers from southern African countries in a "reasonable period of time."

The South African government has complained it is being punished - instead of applauded - for discovering the new variant and quickly informing international health officials.

Fauci, in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," praised South Africa for its transparency and said the U.S. travel ban was imposed at a time "when we were really in the dark" and needed time to study the variant.

At least 16 U.S. states have reported Omicron cases: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin, according to a Reuters tally.

Many of the cases were among fully vaccinated individuals with mild symptoms, although the booster shot status of some patients was not reported.

Despite several dozen Omicron cases, the Delta variant still accounts for 99.9% of new COVID cases in the United States, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told ABC News in an interview.

"We are everyday hearing about more and more probable cases so that number is likely to rise," she said.

The United States over the last seven days has averaged 119,000 new cases a day and lost nearly 1,300 lives to COVID each day, according to a Reuters tally.

Louisiana currently has one Omicron case from an individual who traveled within the United States, its health department said on Sunday.

On Saturday, it said a Norwegian Cruise Line (NYSE:NCLH) Holdings Ltd cruise ship set to dock in New Orleans with more than 3,000 passengers found 10 cases of COVID-19 on board.

Officials said passengers on the Norwegian Breakaway, which stopped in Belize, Honduras and Mexico, would be tested and given the CDC's post-exposure and quarantine guidelines.

The emergence of the new variant has sharply curtailed the number of energy executives and government ministers planning to attend the four-day World Petroleum Congress in Houston this week, which had already been rescheduled from 2020.

But travel restrictions and worries over the new variant saw energy ministers from Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Argentina, Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Turkey and Romania - bowed out, WPC officials said on Sunday.

Governors of two states with reported Omicron cases -- Connecticut and Colorado -- said they hoped their higher-than-average vaccination rates would blunt the impact.

"We want to see how well the vaccinations hold up," Colorado's Jared Polis told ABC.

As U.S. Omicron cases emerge, COVID-19 vaccine makers aim to quickly tweak their shots to target the variant and U.S. regulators have vowed speedy reviews, but that could still take months.

"Certainly, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) will move swiftly and CDC will move swiftly," Walensky said.

Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) Inc has targeted U.S. approval of an updated vaccine as soon as March, but company officials on Sunday said it will still take time to increase output.

Moderna Co-founder and Chairman Noubar Afeyan told CNN it would take another seven to 10 days to gather key data. Then, it "will take a good 60 to 100 days" to deploy an Omicron-specific shot, although other options like a higher dose of the current booster are being explored, he said.

U.S. government officials are also working with Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) on updated shots, while Pfizer and Merck & Co Inc are pursuing COVID-19 pill treatments.

Omicron variant found in nearly one-third of U.S. states
 

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Comments (12)
Stephen Towne
Stephen Towne Dec 14, 2021 10:58PM ET
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Boogey man is here
Fong SH
Fong SH Dec 06, 2021 2:09AM ET
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Why should the world cares how many deaths in US? When US likes to carry arms and shoot blindly in other countries? Taste some deaths and experience the pains in loosing loved ones lol
William Faulkner
William Faulkner Dec 05, 2021 9:19PM ET
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AMAZING. One day before Thanksgiving. Nothing except high oil prices and incessant talk about inflation. A day later. Variant of concern with a new nifty name ready for political marketing. Oil drop. World concern spikes. And now.....1/3 found in US. AMAZING.
Rod Quasney
Rod Quasney Dec 05, 2021 7:59PM ET
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They should name the next "variant" the Boogyman.
Jose Soberanes
Jose Soberanes Dec 05, 2021 7:45PM ET
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Who Cares!!
David David
David9 Dec 05, 2021 7:45PM ET
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99% of people care... if you don't then F stay inside your house and stop causing problem for others that know how to live in a civilized society.
David David
David9 Dec 05, 2021 7:15PM ET
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If you guys want to live in a society with other citizens, then you need to follow laws and orders. If the health official tell you to get the vaccines, take the F vaccine. If you want to shop at a store and they tell you to wear a mask to enter, wear a F mask... if you don't want to do these then F stay in house and order delivery... that's it...
Lake Lot
Lake Lot Dec 05, 2021 7:15PM ET
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Your smart and maje sense
Jose Soberanes
Jose Soberanes Dec 05, 2021 7:15PM ET
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Incompetent Sheep!
Rod Quasney
Rod Quasney Dec 05, 2021 7:15PM ET
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In 3 to 4 years when the side effects become apparent, remember this post. In the meantime, get in line every time they say to, accept that their intent is to see ever financial move you make and be a good little citizen. 🎯
Michael May
Michael May Dec 05, 2021 7:01PM ET
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Who cares about Omicron?
David David
David9 Dec 05, 2021 7:01PM ET
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most people do except for a few...
David David
David9 Dec 05, 2021 6:25PM ET
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Get the booster, wear a mask, and stay away from large crowds...
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Dec 05, 2021 5:47PM ET
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Fauci is the leading "official", not the leading expert.
Todd Gray
Todd Gray Dec 05, 2021 4:46PM ET
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Media makes its money by gross exaggeration. That always makes me wonder what type of people would pay tuition for four years to get to lie to the public for a living.
syedarshadullah hussaini
syedarshadullah hussaini Dec 05, 2021 2:53PM ET
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if u are not scared,who will buy the vaccine,which they have produced in millions
Loudermilktits Loudermilktits
Loudermilktits Dec 05, 2021 2:53PM ET
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No one "buys" a vaccine for covid
Tom Car
Tom Car Dec 05, 2021 2:38PM ET
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why are you scaring us about a flu like virus that noone have died for
Martijn WN
Speculeerbeer Dec 05, 2021 2:38PM ET
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You obviously know no one who actually works in a hospital. Having several siblings who work as medical doctors, I know the severity of this pandemic and what it does to our healthcare (at least in the Netherlands)
Matt Brackley
Matt Brackley Dec 05, 2021 2:38PM ET
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I imagine all products of the socialist machine. Weak and scared.
Tom Car
Tom Car Dec 05, 2021 2:38PM ET
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Do you anyone that died for Omnicron?
 
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