5 in California test positive for omicron variant; cases linked to Wisconsin wedding

A sign for COVID-19 testing
People who arrived on international flights wait to be tested on the first day of a new rapid COVID-19 testing site for arriving international passengers at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday in Los Angeles.
Mario Tama | Getty Images

At least five people in northern California have tested positive for the omicron variant of the coronavirus, and the outbreak is linked to a wedding in Wisconsin last month, public health officials said Friday.

The outbreak was announced just two days after the first confirmed U.S. case of the omicron variant was identified in California. The second confirmed case was reported in Minnesota.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious than previous strains, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.

The five people who have confirmed omicron cases are part of a group of 12 vaccinated people in Alameda County who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Alameda County Department of Public Health. They are linked to a Nov. 27 wedding in Milwaukee County, “which one of these individuals attended upon return from international travel,” the agency said.

The people were vaccinated and have “mildly symptomatic cases." Genomic sequencing for the remaining seven cases has not yet been completed. Officials said "most" of the 12 people had received boosters; they are between 18 and 49 years old.

Public health officials have not said where and when the person traveled internationally.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services issued a statement late Friday saying state and local officials “are actively reaching out to all Wisconsinites who were close contacts, and isolation and quarantine protocols are being followed.”

The Biden administration moved late last month to restrict travel from southern Africa, where the variant was first identified and had been widespread. Clusters of cases have also been identified in about two dozen other nations.

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