Unvaxxed Texas Man First to Die in U.S. From Omicron Variant

An unvaccinated middle-aged man who was previously survived a bout of COVID-19 has become the first person in the U.S. to die of the Omicron variant, health officials in Texas confirmed on Monday.

The unnamed man was between 50 and 60 years old and "had been infected with COVID-19 previously," according to a statement obtained by Newsweek from Harris County Public Health. Officials said that the man was "at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19" due to both his unvaccinated status and underlying health conditions.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the patient's family, and we extend our deepest sympathies," Harris County Public Health Director Barbie Robinson said. "This is a reminder of the severity of COVID-19 and its variants. We urge all residents who qualify to get vaccinated and get their booster shot if they have not already."

Officials urged "all individuals five years and older get vaccinated as soon as possible," while stressing that optimal protection against all strains of COVID-19 including Omicron requires full vaccination and booster shots for those who are eligible.

Although few additional details about the man or his death were immediately available, Houston ABC station KTRK reported that he was from Harris County's Precinct 2, an area that ecompasses several eastern suburbs of Houston.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo raised the county's COVID-19 threat level to "orange" on Monday, the second most severe level that urges residents to "minimize all contacts unless vaccinated." Hidalgo was reportedly the first to announce the county's Omicron death, preceding the official announcement slightly after mentioning it when she received a call in the middle of a press conference.

"My phone was ringing, I'm sure you guys noticed, and it was our public health director telling me we just had our first omicron-related death," Hidalgo said during the press conference, according to CBS affiliate KHOU. "I know, for folks in Harris County, this feels like whiplash ... It follows a downward trend in hospitalizations and cases, only to see things trend back up, and it is so frustrating."

"Omicron is spreading incredibly quickly," she added. "It's more transmissible. The amount of time it takes for the number of omicron cases to double has been very worrisome. Early data shows its doubling in two to three days, according to the CDC. Just to give a point of comparison, the delta variant doubles every eleven days."

The first omicron death came on the same day that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the variant had become the country's most dominant strain of COVID-19, accounting for 73 percent of new cases over the past week, according to The Associated Press.

omicron first death icu texas
A Texas man was reportedly the first to die in the United States from the Omicron variant of COVID-19. iStock/Getty