COVID omicron variant in Wisconsin, DHS confirms

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) on Saturday, Dec. 4 confirmed that the first COVID-19 omicron variant case in a state resident has been identified.

The positive omicron variant case, the DHS said, was identified in a specimen from a Milwaukee County man who recently traveled to South Africa. The man was fully vaccinated, had received a booster dose and reported mild symptoms – no hospitalization required.

Contact tracing efforts have been completed. The case is not related to the COVID-19 outbreak that DHS and the Milwaukee Health Department are investigating in response to a cluster of confirmed cases among California visitors to a Milwaukee County wedding.

"We’ve been prepared for this news and will continue trusting the science to help keep Wisconsinites and our communities healthy and safe," Gov. Tony Evers said in a news release. "Now is the time to double down on our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, including the omicron variant. I urge all eligible Wisconsinites to get vaccinated and receive a booster dose as soon as possible and to follow the latest public health guidance."

The omicron variant, B.1.1.529, was classified as a variant of concern by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Nov. 30. Variants are classified as variants of concern if they show evidence of being more contagious, causing more severe illness, or resistance to diagnostics, treatments, or vaccines.

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The DHS is urging all Wisconsinites to follow public health practices to protect against COVID-19, including variants like omicron:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Get your booster if you’re eligible
  • Wear your mask in public indoor settings
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • If you’re experiencing symptoms or have been identified as a close contact, get tested for COVID-19

Everyone ages 5 and up can receive a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, the CDC now recommends that everyone 18 and older receive a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after having received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two months after their single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Vaccines are free and you do not need an ID or health insurance to get one. To find a vaccine location in your community visit vaccines.gov, or call 211 or 877-947-2211.

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