TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Omicron is officially in Florida.
A Tampa Bay hospital announced its first confirmed case of the new COVID-19 omicron variant on Tuesday.
A spokesperson for James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa confirmed the omicron case in a statement to WFLA.
“The patient is experiencing mild symptoms and had recently returned from international travel,” the spokesperson said. “Our providers were able to quickly detect, test, confirm and add this data to our developing understanding of this strain.”
The email from the VA did not include the patient’s vaccination status, but the spokesperson said vaccines are “the best tool we have to ensure the public’s continued health.”
“It is critical for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” she said. “While no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing illness, the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. provide excellent protection against the COVID-19 variants that have caused surges in the United States so far and are particularly effective in preventing severe illness or death from COVID-19.”
Health experts say the Delta variant remains the dominant strain in the U.S. but that could change.
“There’s no evidence as of now it is a more severe illness than Delta but it is potentially five times more contagious and we feel like it may take over as the most common variant in the U.S. and Florida,” Dr. John Greene at Moffitt Cancer Center said.
There are still many questions surrounding Omicron, as the VA works to better understand the variant, answer more questions and stop it from spreading.
“The big question for people becomes, what do we do while we wait,” Dr. Kelli Tice with Florida Blue said. “We utilize the same safety measures that we have been utilizing in recent months.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis addressed concerns Tuesday in Oldsmar and how the state is responding to the pandemic.
“I have no problem if someone is scared of Omicron and they want to lock down and isolate that’s their decision in a free society but you don’t impose Fauciism on the whole country or the whole state, it’s wrong,” DeSantis said.”
The B.1.1.529 variant, widely known as omicron, was first identified by scientists in South Africa. The Associated Press reported that scientists expressed concern about the new variant due to the high number of mutations in the virus’ spike protein, which could affect how easily it spreads. In an attempt to combat omicron spreading in the United States, President Joe Biden announced travel restrictions for several countries
While it was first reported in several other countries, cases of the omicron variant has since been identified in several states including New York, California and Texas. Before any cases had been reported in the United States, Tampa Bay doctors told 8 On Your Side they believed the variant was already in Florida.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert and chief medical advisor to the president, said this week that early indications suggest omicron may be less dangerous than the delta variant.