The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) has received confirmation of its first case of COVID-19 with mutations consistent with the new Omicron variant (B.1.1.529). The individual returned to Los Angeles County after travel to South Africa via London on 11/22/2021. This infection is most likely travel-related.
The individual, who is a fully vaccinated adult and a Los Angeles County resident, is self-isolating, and their symptoms are improving without medical care. A small number of close contacts in Los Angeles have been identified and, to date, all have tested negative and have no symptoms.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have always known there would be more mutations, resulting in the possibility of a more dangerous variant than the Delta variant,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “While we can’t know for certain the impact of Omicron at this time, the good news is that we already know how to reduce transmission and slow spread using both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions. I encourage everyone to take the steps that we know offer protection, including getting vaccinated or boosted, tested if you feel sick or are a close contact, and wearing your mask indoors and at large mega events.”
Getting vaccinated or boosted is most important as we go into the holiday season where many will be traveling and gathering with others. The vaccines are effective against the Delta variant and earlier strains of the virus, which allows us to remain hopeful that the approved vaccines will also provide some protection against Omicron. Residents can walk-in to any Public Health vaccination site or make an appointment at the hundreds of additional sites across the county.
With continued substantial transmission and the possibility of a highly infectious new variant of concern, all residents across LA County should continue adhering to the masking requirements and wear a mask when indoors or at large outdoor mega events – regardless of vaccination status. Individuals should also wear a mask when at any crowded indoor or outdoor events.
Testing is an important tool in early detection of infection to reduce spread and Public Health encourages residents who have traveled for the holidays to get tested if they traveled internationally or to locations in this country with high transmission rates, or they participated at gatherings and events with large numbers of people, some of which may be unvaccinated. Residents are reminded that they are legally required to isolate if they have a positive COVID test result and that vaccinated close contacts with symptoms and unvaccinated close contacts need to quarantine.
Beginning tomorrow, international travelers arriving at the LAX international terminal will be offered free rapid COVID-19 tests and information on federal recommendations for quarantining and testing.
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