State leaders respond to discovery of omicron variant in California, expect more cases


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — State health officials expect more cases of the omicron variant to be detected in California after the first case was identified Wednesday.

The discovery did not surprise Gov. Gavin Newsom or the state’s top health officials who said California’s access to biotech and genomic sequencing efforts made it inevitable the first case would be detected here.

But one of their main messages to the public right now is that now is not the time to panic.

“This was predictable, this was predicted,” Newsom said.

The nation and state’s first case was detected Wednesday in a fully vaccinated San Francisco resident who had recently traveled to South Africa. The person has mild symptoms.

“We are proud to be able to identify because of those efforts to be well prepared around COVID, the lessons we learned over the past 20 months to be ready on all fronts and California demonstrates that today,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly.

The state’s top health officials said they’re now in the process of gathering even more information on the omicron variant and boosting COVID-19 testing at airports across California.

“As we enter this period of uncertainty, it is not the time to panic,” Dr. Ghaly said.

With the omicron variant now in California, Newsom said there are no plans to shut down schools and businesses.

“None of us want to see that happen, I certainly don’t want to see that happen and I see no indication whatsoever that that’s in our immediate future that will happen as long as we continue those nation-leading efforts,” the governor said.

Those efforts include vaccinations and booster shots.

At a school in Merced County Wednesday, which has one of California’s lowest vaccination rates, the governor and health officials urged those who need either to get it now.

“The evidence that an individual with omicron identified by sequencing actually has mild symptoms and is improving is a testament to the importance of vaccinations. We have a lot more to learn,” Dr. Ghaly explained.

State leaders said that although this variant was first detected here in California, we should assume it’s in other states as well. 

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