CDC: Earliest-known omicron case in U.S. was November 15

Previous earliest detection was two weeks later, Dec. 1
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(TAMI CHAPPELL/Getty)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday revealed that the earliest-known case of the COVID-19 omicron variant was in the United States by Nov. 15, pushing its arrival in the U.S. back by at least two weeks.

The CDC revealed the new date in its latest Morbidity and Weekly Mortality Report on Friday. “The first U.S. case of COVID-19 attributed to the Omicron variant was detected on December 1, 2021,” the update said, but “among the cases described in this report, the earliest report of symptom onset was November 15.”

The earlier arrival sheds further light on the ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in general, the omicron variant in particular, to spread rapidly within communities and via international travel. Officials have warned that the latest variant appears to be well-adapted to easy transmission. 

Global alarm surrounding the omicron variant has been tempered in the weeks since its detection by signs that the variant may cause largely mild illness in those who contract it. 

The CDC warned that a mild variant can still pose a threat to localized regions. 

“Even if most infections are mild, a highly transmissible variant could result in enough cases to overwhelm health systems,” it said.