The first three Omicron coronavirus variant cases have been confirmed in Maryland residents by state officials, Gov. Larry Hogan announced today.
“Thanks to our aggressive surveillance system, we have quickly identified the first cases of the Omicron variant in Maryland,” Gov. Hogan said.
The World Health Organization designated Omicron as a variant of concern on Nov. 26, two days after South African officials reported its discovery. The Omicron variant has been reported in 40 countries, and was first confirmed in the U.S. in California on Dec. 1.
Today, state health officials have confirmed the first three cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) in Maryland residents. All three of these cases involve individuals from the Baltimore Metropolitan Region.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) December 3, 2021
The variant’s presence was confirmed by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) Public Health Laboratory, in collaboration with partner laboratories. All three Maryland cases are from the Baltimore area. Two of the cases are from the same household, with one vaccinated individual having recently traveled to South Africa, and the other individual being unvaccinated and in close contact.
The third case was found in an unrelated individual with no recent travel history. None of the three cases have been hospitalized. Contact tracing is underway to notify and quarantine individuals who may have been affected.
Gov. Hogan and state health officials outlined a course of action earlier this week in preparation of the omicron variant’s detection. The plan includes rapid antigen tests available at BWI Airport, and increased surveillance and contact tracing.
“Currently available PCR diagnostic tests and rapid antigen tests will detect COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant,” said Dr. Jinlene Chan, MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services. State officials strongly recommend those who recently traveled internationally or show any kind of symptoms get tested immediately.
Scientists around the world are working diligently to determine the severity of Omicron cases, and how well the vaccines hold up against the variant.
“We urge Marylanders to continue taking precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe,” said Gov. Hogan. “Getting a vaccine or a booster shot is the single most important thing that you can do to protect yourself and those around you.”
The current dominant strain of coronavirus is the Delta variant, detected in more than 99% of ongoing cases. The CDC tracks case counts of different virus strains identified in the United States on its website.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we will continue to keep Marylanders updated as new information becomes available,” Hogan said.