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State health officials announce first case of COVID-19 Omicron variant in Mass., urge residents to get vaccinated

BOSTON (WHDH) – BOSTON (AP) — A woman in her 20s who had traveled out of state is the first known case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus detected in Massachusetts, the state Department of Public House announced Saturday.

Genetic sequencing confirmed the variant, officials said. The unidentified woman — a resident of Middlesex County — is fully vaccinated, has experienced mild disease, and did not require hospitalization according to the state health department.

The Bay State now joins 13 other states with confirmed cases of the new variant, the first case having been identified in California on Wednesday.

Much remains unknown about omicron, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it can thwart vaccines and whether it makes people as sick as the original strain.

“This [variant] is certainly cause for concern, according to the CDC, but there’s still a lot of research being done on it” said Gov. Charlie Baker on Saturday. “We’ll continue to work with our colleagues at the federal level on this case.”

News of the arrival of the omicron variant comes as the state has experienced a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Baker last week announced an emergency order requiring any hospital or hospital system facing limited patient capacity to reduce non-essential, non-urgent scheduled procedures.

As of Friday, there were more than 1,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Massachusetts and more than 190 in intensive care units.

More than 19,000 people in Massachusetts have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

State health officials urged residents to take the steps already available to protect themselves against COVID-19. Including getting vaccinated and receiving a booster shot when they are eligible.

“It’s important to remember we still have a significant delta wave going on in the country, so all the same messages that apply to omicron apply to delta,” said Dr. Jacob, Lemieux, an infectious disease expert at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Vaccinate, vaccinate vaccinate, get boosted if you’re eligible, masking when you’re indoors, and maintaining social distance where possible,”

The vaccine is free, and no ID or insurance is required for vaccination. A list of vaccination locations is available at vaxfinder.mass.gov. There are over 1,000 locations across the Commonwealth to get vaccinated or receive a booster.

(Copyright (c) 2021 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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