Wisconsin is the latest state in the U.S. to confirm the presence of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced late Saturday night that the variant of concern was discovered in a Wisconsin resident with recent travel history to South Africa, where the variant was first discovered.
“We’ve been prepared for this news and will continue trusting the science to help keep Wisconsinites and our communities healthy and safe,” said Governor Tony Evers in a prepared statement.
The individual who tested positive is a man from Milwaukee County. He was fully vaccinated and had received a booster shot. He reported mild symptoms and was not hospitalized.
The man who tested positive for the omicron variant in Minnesota had a similar experience, having reported to the Minnesota Department of Health that he had experienced mild symptoms after traveling to New York for an anime convention. He, too, was vaccinated and had received his booster dose.
Vaccine evasion is one of the concerns about the omicron variant, though health officials around the world believe being vaccinated can will still help prevent serious illness and death.
Wisconsin health officials on Friday announced that a Nov. 27 wedding in Milwaukee County resulted in 12 confirmed cases of COvID-19 among California residents who attended, and five have since been confirmed to be the omicron variant.
"The 12 individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 are between the ages of 18-49. All individuals were vaccinated, and most had received boosters. They are mildly symptomatic and no one has been hospitalized," health officials said.
Being labeled a variant of concern means omicron shows signs of being more transmissible with the potential to cause more severe disease and evade vaccines. However, none of those traits have been 100% confirmed.
However, early indicators suggest omicron is extremely transmissible. A report out of Norway claims that as many as 100 of 120 people who attended a holiday party have all tested positive for COVID-19, while the Minnesota man told New York health officials that 15 of 30 friends who attended the anime event with him have since come down with COVID-19.
"As we learn more about this variant and how easily it spreads, it’s crucial that all Wisconsinites continue to practice good public health safety measures like getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, staying home if you’re sick, and getting tested," said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake.