Maryland health officials confirm state's first cases of Omicron variant

Virus Outbreak California
Posted at 3:20 PM, Dec 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-06 11:16:27-05

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland health officials have confirmed the state's first three cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529).

Two of the cases are from residents of the same household, in the Baltimore Metropolitan region.

One is vaccinated and recently traveled to South Africa, while the other is unvaccinated and is believed to have contracted the virus by having close contact.

The third case is unrelated and involves a vaccinated individual with no known recent travel history.

None of those infected have been hospitalized.

Contact tracing efforts are underway to ensure that potential close contacts are quickly identified, quarantined, and tested.

Nearly 40 countries have now reported cases of the Omicron variant.

The World Health Organization designated Omicron as a variant of concern on November 26, and it was first identified in the United States on December 1.

It's believed current available testing can detect COVID-19 caused by Omicron.

“Currently available PCR diagnostic tests and rapid antigen tests will detect COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant,” said MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Jinlene Chan.

Although it could take weeks to know the severity of Omicron symptoms and how effective vaccines are against it, Governor Larry Hogan says getting a shot is still the safest way to protect yourself.

"Getting a vaccine or a booster shot is the single most important thing that you can do to protect yourself and those around you," said Hogan.

MORE: Maryland prepares as concern over Omicron Variant grows

Earlier in the week, officials launched efforts at BWI Airport to catch potential new cases as soon as they come into the state.

Rapid tests are now available for travelers arriving at the international terminal. The airport has also opened a new on-site urgent care center that provides COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and boosters to passengers.

"This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we will continue to keep Marylanders updated as new information becomes available,” Hogan said.