Omicron in Massachusetts puts health experts on high alert

Coronavirus Local Impact

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The first case of the new omicron variant has been detected in Massachusetts and it’s putting health experts on high alert.

The omicron variant has now been detected in about a third of the United States, including Massachusetts and Connecticut. It’s just another reason health experts say to get vaccinated. The new, highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus was reported in Massachusetts for the first time over the weekend.

The person is a woman in her 20s from Middlesex County who had traveled out of Massachusetts. She is fully vaccinated, had mild symptoms and didn’t need to be hospitalized.

The pandemic has already seen a surge caused by the highly contagious delta variant, and now health officials are worried omicron may continue to spread this winter due to more people being indoors and traveling for the holiday season.

“There are some signals based on the mutations that is is more transmittable than the delta but time will tell if this will be the case, if it will replace delta as the circulating variant,” said Baystate Health’s Division of Infectious Diseases Dr. Armando Paez.

The omicron variant was discovered a little over a week ago after being identified in South Africa. The first U.S. case was found last week in a vaccinated person who had flown from South Africa to California.

To help slow the spread of the new variant, international travelers are now required to take a COVID test within 24 hours of leaving on their flight to the U.S., regardless of vaccination status.

Winter’s arrival and the ongoing surge in infections is forcing some to rethink mask-wearing.

“It’s perfect conditions for the COVID-19 to circulate, especially if you don’t pay attention to the infection control measures that we know work that are masking especially in crowded areas and indoor crowded areas,” said Dr. Paez.

Masks have come off in many public settings but remain required in others, such as health care and public transportation.

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