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1st probable COVID case of omicron variant reported in Louisiana, officials say

A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The first probable COVID-19 case of the omicron variant in Louisiana was confirmed by state officials Friday evening, according to a tweet from Louisiana Department of Health.

The probable case was from a person out of Region 1, which includes Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, LDH said. Gov. John Bel Edwards said the case was also "related to domestic travel," but officials didn't release any other details on the individual or circumstances.

“We now know omicron is here in Louisiana,” Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state health officer, said Friday evening. “We have been expecting and preparing for this moment. To all Louisianans, the single best action you can take to protect yourselves and your families is to get yourself and loved ones vaccinated and boosted if eligible.”

Louisiana now joins several other states who have confirmed omicron cases in recent days. The variant was first identified in southern Africa last month. World health officials would later describe omicron as a "variant of concern."

During a Friday afternoon press conference, Louisiana health officials hadn't yet confirmed the probable case, but they said they were genetically sequencing most positive COVID-19 PCR tests to find out which variants are circulating in the state.

Kanter said at the earlier press conference that omicron is noteworthy for its “high number of mutations” in the virus’ spike protein structures. An early report from South African scientists shows that the omicron variant may be more able to re-infect those who previously recovered from COVID-19 at a rate three times better than the delta variant, but the study has yet to be peer-reviewed.

Kanter reiterated that scientists don’t yet know enough about the omicron variant to make any definitive statements about its potential impact in Louisiana.

Health officials spent much of the press conference reminding residents that the best action to take to prepare for omicron is to get vaccinated and get booster shots. About 49% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.

To see more COVID-19 data from LDH, click here.

Katelyn Umholtz is the digital editor for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of New Orleans.

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