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D.C. announces first four cases of omicron variant

Coronavirus variants like omicron, delta and mu are an expected part of the virus's life cycle, but vaccines can prevent more infectious variants from forming. (Video: John Farrell, Hadley Green/The Washington Post)
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Four unrelated cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus were confirmed Sunday in the District, the city’s health department said.

These were apparently the first such cases to be found in Washington of the new coronavirus variant that is rapidly spreading in many countries.

City health officials said the four people who have the variant are:

  • A woman who had traveled within the United States to Florida and New York. She was fully vaccinated but without the booster shot.
  • A woman who traveled to Maryland during the Thanksgiving holiday. She was fully vaccinated, but it was not known whether she had received a booster shot.
  • A man who is not known to have traveled. He was fully vaccinated, but it was not known whether he had received a booster shot.
  • A woman who had been to Virginia during the holiday. She had been fully vaccinated but it was not known whether she had received a booster shot.

The omicron variant was first reported to have reached the Washington region earlier this month, when Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced that three cases were detected in residents who live in the Baltimore area.

Two of the Maryland cases were from one household, including one person who was vaccinated and recently traveled to South Africa. The second person was unvaccinated and had close contact with the traveler. The third case, which involves a vaccinated person, was unrelated to the other two, and officials said that case did not appear to be connected to travel.

In a statement on Sunday, the D.C. Department of Health urged everyone 5 and older to get vaccinated. Officials recommend that anyone 16 or older who received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna on or before June 12 of this year or who has received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on or before Oct. 12 get a booster dose as soon as possible.

The World Health Organization has categorized omicron as a “variant of concern.” It has not yet been determined how it compares with the predominant delta variant on transmissibility and severity of infection, the D.C. Department of Health said.