Which States Have Omicron COVID Variant As Four First Cases Reported in One Day

The Omicron variant of COVID has been detected in at least 17 U.S. states, with several reporting their first cases this weekend.

The first U.S. case was reported in California on December 1 in a traveler who had returned there from South Africa on November 22.

Since then the variant has been found in many other states with at least four more—Washington, Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts—reporting their first cases on Saturday.

The full list of states to have reported an Omicron case are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington.

However, it is possible that the variant is circulating in other states as well but has not yet been detected.

In a statement confirming the state's three new Omicron cases on Saturday, the Washington Department of Health said it had boosted its lab capacity to detect the genetic markers that are associated with the Omicron variant.

Washington State health secretary Umair A. Shah said: "We strongly urge people to get vaccinated and get their boosters as soon as possible to maximize their level of protection from any variant."

And Jeff Duchin, health officer for the Seattle and King County, said it was "a good time" to improve current strategies including "good-quality masks indoors, improving indoor air quality and avoiding crowded indoor spaces."

Meanwhile, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Massachusetts each reported one case.

Omicron was declared as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 26 after scientists expressed alarm at the large number of genetic mutations the variant has compared to other COVID variants—around 50.

Scientists have suggested that these mutations could mean Omicron is more easily spread between people or be able to resist natural or vaccine-induced immunity. However, lab work is ongoing to find out whether this is the case and to what extent.

Wisconsin's Department of Health Services said in a press release on Saturday that it could take "several weeks" for scientists to determine these characteristics and find out whether Omicron has an impact on disease severity.

In any case, state health departments have widely urged people to get vaccinated and receive booster shots in order to protect against Omicron and other COVID variants in response to the recent U.S. cases.

Meanwhile, Omicron has also been spreading in other countries. Earlier on Monday Japan confirmed its third case, while the U.K. reported 86 new cases on Sunday, bringing the country's total to 246.

Health worker with COVID test
A health worker holds a COVID swab test kit at a hospital in Lombardy, Italy. Scientists are still trying to work out how serious the Omicron variant is. Miguel Medina/AFP / Getty