Omicron Variant Appears in Minnesota as Pandemic Continues Burdening Healthcare Systems
A man in Minnesota contracted the variant after attending an anime convention in New York in November.
DULUTH, Minn.- The Omicron variant was discovered in Minnesota Thursday, contracted by a man who attended an anime convention in New York City last month — casting a shadow of concern over the already overwhelmed healthcare systems everywhere, including the Twin Ports.
“This will never end until we get 100%– until we get virtually everyone vaccinated,” said Dr. Jon Pryor, President of Essentia Health.
On Thursday, Governor Tim Walz took questions about the variant at a press conference about infrastructure in Dilworth. “We found it I think at about the same time that they announced the one in California and we had to go to CDC they did the 2nd test on it they verified that our results are right,” he said.
A reporter asked, “he was boosted in early November, so what should people extrapolate from he was fully vaccinated he just got boosted, and he still got it?”
“He’s not dead. That’s what they should take from it,” replied the Governor.
“That’s what the vaccines do on this they keep you out of the hospital they keep you from death but we just don’t know,” he said.
Health officials say he showed mild symptoms, which have subsided since he got tested around Thanksgiving.
It was just one day after the first confirmed case of Omicron in the U.S. was reported in California. It was first classified by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26 and first detected in Africa and Europe.
“This will not be the last variant and that is not a doom and gloom perspective, that’s just science,” said Walz. “There’ll be another one. “The question is do they send more people to the hospital, do they defeat our vaccines, and at this point in time we simply don’t know.”
While the infected man was fully vaccinated, it’s too early to know how others could be affected.
“So far the evidence is that it’s fairly contagious but we don’t know how severe the symptoms are that it causes in people,” said Dr. Pryor, “it will probably take another couple of weeks of analysis before we get that kind of information.”
According to Pryor, it’s normal for a virus to mutate as it moves around a population. “Every time it replicates there’s a chance in getting some errors in the code in the mRNA and it turns out a little bit different and it develops some proteins on the outside of the virus that’s a little bit different.”
“But the mutations are occurring because not enough people are vaccinated,” said the doctor.
He said preliminary evidence proves vaccines are still “relatively effective” against the variant, and are still the best tool for prevention.
“It doesn’t mean that you won’t get a breakthrough infection but you’re a lot less likely to get it,” said Dr. Pryor, “and it and if you get a breakthrough infection you’re a lot less likely to be hospitalized and you’re a lot less likely to be put on a ‘vent’ [ventilator], and you’re a lot less likely to die.”
And you’re a lot less likely to become a patient who swamps the area’s healthcare systems.
“I would say that we are close to a crisis if we are not in a crisis,” Dr. Pryor said.
“We are running out of staffed beds we have people waiting in the emergency department for 12-48 hours that’s not where they need to be that’s not where they, that’s not the optimal space for them,” he said.
67 COVID patients are being treated at Essentia health, 15 of whom are in the ICU. 72 Minnesotans died from covid-19 just on Thursday — all burdens shouldered most by frontline workers.
“This is like fighting a battle every single day and they’re used to seeing death — no one has seen death to this extent before,” said the President of Essentia.
So Dr. Pryor said he is continuing to beg Northlanders to get vaccinated and get the booster if they’re eligible.
“If they care about our healthcare workers they would do that, if they care about their family and their community they would do that,” said Pryor.
“This isn’t about individual beliefs at this point, and it’s not about the liberty to choose – it’s affecting, it’s affecting the United States,” he said.