MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Questions about the novel Omicron variant of the coronavirus arise as more confirmed cases of infections with the strain emerge in the United States, including Minnesota, where experts have been able to detect it due to the variant surveillance system. the state.

The first case was found in California, followed by Minnesota and then Colorado on Thursday. A Hennepin County man tested positive after traveling to New York City for a convention on November 19. He is vaccinated and has shown mild symptoms, the state health department said. Later Thursday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced cases in the state.

READ MORE: First Omicron case identified in Wisconsin

The Minnesota Department of Health public health lab has confirmed Omicron’s case through genome sequencing, which goes one step further and analyzes a test sample to identify variants. Minnesota touts its surveillance system as one of the most powerful in the country.

“The reason we found this first is because we do it better,” Governor Tim Walz said Thursday.

Dr Matt Binnicker of the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology said the prevalence of Omicron is likely more widespread than the few confirmed cases in the United States so far.

Scientists are still learning how it interacts with vaccines and whether it is more transmissible than other strains, but the good news is that infections so far have been mild, he said.

“Over the next two to four weeks we will know whether the Omicron variant will outperform Delta or not,” Binnicker said. “So it’s basically about the survival of the fittest for these viruses.”

READ MORE: 5 California residents infected with Omicron after marriage in Wisconsin

The Minnesota Department of Health has tracked several variations since the spring when the most common strain was Alpha. Now almost all of the cases are the Delta variant, which experts say is fueling a crisis in Minnesota hospitals where doctors and nurses are struggling to treat people with the virus and other conditions.

But plans have not changed for Gov. Tim Walz and the state’s response to the pandemic at this point – he says there will be no new terms.

“Nothing has changed in our approach in this regard,” he said. “The solution is to get vaccinated. “

Public health experts continue to make the same plea to get vaccinated and get vaccinated in order to mitigate the impact of Omicron.

“The more people we have vaccinated around the world, the fewer infections there will be and the less chance that new strains of the virus will emerge,” Binnicker said.

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