First N.C. Omicron case found in Charlotte

First N.C. Omicron case found in Charlotte
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A UNC Charlotte student tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Mecklenburg County announced Friday. It’s the first confirmed case of the new variant in North Carolina.

  • The student was isolated and has recovered, the county said in a press release. The individual only had one known contact.

Why it matters: The variant was first reported in South Africa last month and has since spread to dozens of states and countries around the world. Data on the variant is limited, but so far, the CDC says most U.S. cases have been mild, Axios reported.

[Related Axios guide: What the Omicron variant might mean for Charlotte and your holiday plans]

Be smart: The advice from public health experts remains the same — get vaccinated and boosted, wear a mask and wash your hands often.

  • Earlier this week, Pfizer and BioNTech said a booster shot provides stronger protection against the variant than the initial two-dose series.
  • “If you have yet to get vaccinated, please do get vaccinated,” Raynard Washington, Mecklenburg County’s deputy health director, said in a briefing with reporters Friday. “That is what we need folks to do to keep folks out of the hospital, keep people alive and keep folks from having or experiencing severe illness.”

Between the lines: The UNC Charlotte student who contracted Omicron was fully vaccinated and had traveled out-of-state over Thanksgiving, UNC Charlotte Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Rick Tankersley told reporters. The person had mild symptoms.

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State of play: Vaccination rates have increased amid fears of the new variant in North Carolina and across the country.

Yes, but: Dr. Katie Passaretti, Atrium Health VP, enterprise chief epidemiologist, said that the local community is lucky to have had a little time to prepare for and learn about Omicron before it appeared in Charlotte.

  • “It was really only a matter of time until we saw this variant,” Passaretti said during a media briefing Friday. “It is not a cause for panic.”
  • The local discovery of the variant reinforces the need for vaccination and for boosters.

What’s next: County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said in the press conference that the Delta variant continues to be the main concern in the county.  But she expects additional cases of Omicron to be identified.

  • “This virus is not going away,” she said. “What it does, how it mutates, and how we manage it are the variables that we have to deal with.”

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