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Omicron variant found in nearly a third of US states

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (Reuters) – The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has spread to about a third of US states, but the Delta version remains the majority of COVID-19 infections as cases increase across the country, said US health officials Sunday.

Although the emergence of the new variant has alarmed the world, Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease official, told CNN “so far it doesn’t appear to be very serious.” He added that it was too early to draw firm conclusions and that further study is needed.

Fauci, chief medical adviser to US President Joe Biden, said he also hopes the United States will lift its ban on travelers from southern African countries within a “reasonable period of time.”

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The South African government has complained of being punished – instead of applauded – for discovering the new variant and promptly briefing international health officials.

Fauci, in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” praised South Africa for its transparency and said the travel ban to the United States was imposed at a time “when we were really in. black “and that it took time to study the variant.

At least 16 U.S. states have reported cases of Omicron: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin, according to a count from Reuters.

Many cases have involved fully vaccinated people with mild symptoms, although the recall status of some patients has not been reported.

Despite several dozen Omicron cases, the Delta variant still accounts for 99.9% of new COVID cases in the United States, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky told ABC News in an interview.

“We hear about more and more probable cases every day, so that number is likely to increase,” she said.

The United States over the past seven days has averaged 119,000 new cases per day and lost nearly 1,300 lives to COVID each day, according to a Reuters tally.

Louisiana currently has one Omicron case from an individual who traveled to the United States, its health department said on Sunday.

Travelers check a departure list at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport ticket counter ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Seattle, Washington, United States, November 24, 2021. REUTERS / Lindsey Wasson / File Photo / File Photo

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On Saturday, he said that a cruise ship Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH.N) scheduled to dock in New Orleans with more than 3,000 passengers found 10 cases of COVID-19 on board.

Officials said passengers on the Norwegian Breakaway, which stopped in Belize, Honduras and Mexico, would be tested and would be subject to CDC post-exposure and quarantine guidelines. Read more

The emergence of the new variant sharply reduced the number of energy leaders and government ministers planning to attend the four-day World Petroleum Congress in Houston this week, which had already been rescheduled from 2020. read the following

But travel restrictions and concerns over the new variant have seen energy ministers from Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Argentina, Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Turkey and Romania withdraw. WPC officials said on Sunday.

The governors of two states that have reported cases of Omicron – Connecticut and Colorado – have said they hope their higher than average vaccination rates will lessen the impact.

“We want to see how resistant the vaccinations are,” Colorado’s Jared Polis told ABC.

As U.S. Omicron cases emerge, COVID-19 vaccine makers aim to quickly adjust their shots to target the variant, and U.S. regulators have promised rapid reviews, but that could still take months.

“Certainly the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will act quickly and the CDC will act quickly,” Walensky said.

Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) has targeted U.S. approval of an updated vaccine as early as March, but company officials said on Sunday it would still take time to ramp up production. Read more

Moderna co-founder and chairman Noubar Afeyan told CNN it would take another seven to ten days to collect key data. Then it will take “60 to 100 days” to deploy a specific shot at Omicron, although other options like a higher dose of the current booster will be explored, he said.

U.S. government officials are also working with Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) on updated plans, while Pfizer and Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) pursue COVID pill treatments -19. Read more

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Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Diane Craft

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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2/ https://www.reuters.com/world/us/fauci-says-he-hopes-us-travel-ban-southern-africa-can-be-lifted-reasonable-2021-12-05/

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