Authorities in Texas have confirmed the first known death in the United States relating to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Officials in Harris County said the Houston man was in his 50s and was unvaccinated. He had previously been infected with COVID-19 and had underlying health conditions that made him more susceptible to severe complications from the virus.
“I know for folks in Harris County, this feels like whiplash. We saw the downward trend in hospitalizations and cases, only to see things trend back up again. And it is so frustrating. I feel it, too… As we’ve been expecting, the omicron variant of COVID-19 has arrived in full force,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said.
The announcement comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the Omicron variant is now the dominant strain in the U.S., surpassing the Delta variant in less than a month. The agency said the sequencing data from the week ending on Saturday (December 18) showed the Omicron variant accounted for 73% of all cases in the country.
While the Omicron variant is more transmissible than previous strains, early evidence shows it causes milder infections. It also appears to evade vaccine protection, though the vaccines still provide strong protection against severe cases and hospitalizations.
Health officials are urging people to get vaccinated and recommending that those who are fully vaccinated get a booster shot.