As news of the Omicron variants fills the media, an ominous story has just broken. The second US case of Omicron, a new and unknown COVID-19 variant, has been detected in Minnesota and from a man who had just attended Anime NYC in New York:

The person with the Omicron variant is an adult male, is a resident of Hennepin County, and had been vaccinated. The person developed mild symptoms on Nov. 22 and sought COVID-19 testing on Nov. 24. The person’s symptoms have resolved.  The person spoke with MDH case investigators and reported traveling to New York City and attended the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from Nov. 19-21. The person was advised to isolate from others. Minnesota epidemiologists will continue to investigate in collaboration with New York City and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some 53,000 people attended Anime NYC, so this is a matter of some concern. NYC mayor Bill de Blasio has just released a statement:

“We are aware of a case of the Omicron variant identified in Minnesota that is associated with travel to a conference in New York City, and we should assume there is community spread of the variant in our city. We are working closely with the State and the CDC, as well as the Javits Center’s event organizers, and our Test and Trace Corps will be contacting conference attendees. This conference required masks and complied with our Key2NYC requirement to mandate vaccination.

Anyone who attended the AnimeNYC conference, especially anyone experiencing symptoms, should get tested immediately and take additional precautions, including social distancing.

I urge all New Yorkers to get vaccinated, wear a face mask while indoors and in public, and help our city beat this virus once and for all.”

Like NYCC, Anime NYC required proof of vaccination to enter, and mask usage while inside. In fact on Friday there was a 2-4 hour wait to get in while vaccination status was checked. That said, once inside, the show was quite crowded. I saw a lot of mask usage, but thought it was a little too crowded for my tastes and didn’t hang around long. (I’ve also since tested negative for COVID.)

Checking some message boards for Anime NYC, there is no talk of a COVID outbreak afterwards, but this is obviously a developing story.

While the appearance of the Omicron variant has caused a great deal of anxiety, we still do not know much about it. Both US cases found thus far were very mild and were in fully vaccinated individuals.

Given the time frame – COVID symptoms usually appear within 2-14 days of exposure – we are still within the window for cases from Anime NYC to show up. If you attended and are feeling ill, please get tested and socially distance. 

While this is breaking news, sensible behavior is still the best way forward. If you’re attending a large gathering of people wear a mask; get vaccinated; and be mindful of the safety of those around you.

Photo: Heidi MacDonald