Contact tracing revs up in some states as omicron reaches US


The arrival of the omicron variant of the coronavirus within the U.S. has health officials in some communities reviving contact tracing operations in an try to gradual and higher perceive its unfold as scientists research how contagious it’s and whether or not it may possibly thwart vaccines.

In New York City, officers shortly reached out to a person who examined constructive for the variant and had attended an anime convention at a Manhattan conference middle final month together with greater than 50,000 folks. 5 different attendees have additionally been contaminated with the coronavirus, although officers don’t but know whether or not it was with the omicron variant.

“As for what we learned about this conference at the Javits Center and these additional cases, our test and trace team is out there immediately working with each individual who was affected to figure out who else they came in contact with. That contact tracing is absolutely crucial,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio stated.

A mobile COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot site operates out of a bus on 59th Street, south of Central Park, as patients wait on the sidewalk, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in New York. Health officials say multiple cases of the omicron coronavirus variant have been detected in New York, including a man who attended an anime convention in Manhattan in late November. He tested positive for the variant when he returned home to Minnesota. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) 

A cell COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot website operates out of a bus on 59th Avenue, south of Central Park, as sufferers wait on the sidewalk, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in New York. Well being officers say a number of circumstances of the omicron coronavirus variant have been detected in New York, together with a person who attended an anime conference in Manhattan in late November. He examined constructive for the variant when he returned dwelling to Minnesota. (AP Photograph/John Minchillo) 


As soon as a world epicenter of the pandemic, New York has the nation’s greatest contract tracing effort. The town recognized 4 omicron circumstances Thursday, and a fifth was found in close by Suffolk County on jap Lengthy Island.

The variant has been detected in a handful of different states up to now, together with California, Colorado and Hawaii.

Contract tracers have been busy in Nebraska after six circumstances of omicron have been confirmed Friday. One of many folks had lately returned from a go to to Nigeria, and the opposite 5 have been shut contacts of that individual.

In Philadelphia, officers have been working to trace down contacts of a person in his 30s who’s Pennsylvania’s first resident contaminated with the variant, the town’s Division of Public Well being stated.

And in Maryland, officers have been speeding to hint, quarantine and check shut contacts of three folks from the Baltimore area who’re the primary identified circumstances within the state. Two are from the identical family, together with a vaccinated one who lately traveled to South Africa, and the third has no current journey historical past and is unrelated to the opposite two.

An Orange Farm, South Africa, resident listens to a nurse after receiving his jab against COVID-19 Friday Dec. 3, 2021 at the Orange Farm multipurpose center. South Africa has accelerated its vaccination campaign a week after the discovery of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

An Orange Farm, South Africa, resident listens to a nurse after receiving his jab towards COVID-19 Friday Dec. 3, 2021 on the Orange Farm multipurpose middle. South Africa has accelerated its vaccination marketing campaign every week after the invention of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. (AP Photograph/Jerome Delay)


Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Affiliation of State and Territorial Well being Officers, stated “more and more” contact tracing efforts are anticipated within the coming days, partly due to the uncertainty about how efficient vaccines and coverings like monoclonal antibodies will likely be towards omicron.

Contact tracing is a crucial software within the pandemic response, permitting well being departments to inform individuals who had shut contact with an contaminated individual and gradual the development of COVID-19.

“Contact tracing can give us information about how it’s spreading and hopefully break chains of transmission to stop clusters and outbreaks, or at least delay them until we know more and understand what our next steps need to be,” stated Crystal Watson, a senior scholar on the Johns Hopkins Heart for Well being Safety on the Bloomberg Faculty of Public Well being.

Whereas a lot remains to be unknown in regards to the variant, early experiences are elevating alarms. New COVID-19 circumstances in South Africa, which first alerted the world to omicron final week, have burgeoned from about 200 a day in mid-November to greater than 16,000 on Friday.


Some U.S. circumstances contain individuals who hadn’t traveled lately, which means the variant was probably already circulating domestically in some components of the nation.

In New York, the three-day anime competition in November is presenting a staffing problem for tracers because of the giant variety of attendees. The one identified omicron an infection concerned a person from Minnesota.

Officers cautioned towards linking the opposite 5 coronavirus circumstances on to the occasion.

“The really important point here is that’s five cases from a denominator of tens of thousands of people at this conference. And furthermore, we’ve not established any sort of link between those five cases and widespread transmission at the conference,” stated Ted Lengthy, government director of the NYC Take a look at & Hint Corps, which runs the town’s contact tracing program.

Proof of vaccination was vital for admission, as mandated by metropolis legislation, and masks have been additionally required.


Officers stated they’d reached all 36,500 conference attendees, distributors and exhibitors for whom they’d contact info, through e mail, textual content message or telephone name. However they determined it wasn’t essential to contact each single attendee because the contaminated man didn’t seem to have shut contacts based mostly in New York.

In Minnesota, in the meantime, officers are investigating “a circle of contacts” for the person believed to have been contaminated on the convention, stated Kris Ehresmann, the state’s infectious illness director.

“Part of the reason we did indicate where he had been — the anime convention in New York — is because there were so many people that attended that event. It would not be possible for him or really anyone to identify everyone that they were potentially in contact with,” Ehresmann stated.

Amid the surge of the delta variant, well being investigators throughout the U.S. grew to become overwhelmed and scaled again contact tracing operations, discovering it almost unimaginable to maintain up with the deluge of latest infections, administer vaccines and likewise do tracing on the similar time.


Many well being officers finally targeted on exposures at faculties or potential super-spreader incidents the place giant numbers of individuals have been vulnerable to publicity.

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious ailments on the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, expects that may finally occur with omicron.

“Contact tracing and sequencing will allow us to paint with a broad brush,” Schaffner stated. “But we won’t be able to track it down to each and every case, and at a given point, when you know it is here and spreading, why do we need to do that?”

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