The arrival of the new coronavirus omicron variant in the United States prompted health officials in some communities to resume contact tracing operations in an attempt to slow down and better understand its spread, as scientists are studying how infectious it is and whether it will hinder vaccines Development.
In New York City, officials quickly contacted a man who tested positive for the variant, who attended an animation conference at the Manhattan Convention Center with more than 50,000 people last month. Five other participants were also infected with the coronavirus, but officials do not yet know whether they were infected with the omicron variant.
“As for what we learned in this meeting at the Javits Center and these additional cases, our testing and tracking team will immediately work with everyone affected to find out who they have been in contact with. Contact tracing is absolutely Is vital,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
New York, once the center of the global pandemic, now has the largest contact tracing work in the country. The city detected four omicron cases on Thursday, and the fifth case was found near Suffolk County in eastern Long Island.
So far, the variant has been found in a few other states, including California, Colorado, and Hawaii.
After six omicron cases were confirmed on Friday, contact tracers in Nebraska have been busy. One of them had just returned from a recent visit to Nigeria, and the other five were close contacts of the person.
The city’s Department of Public Health said that in Philadelphia, officials are trying to trace contacts of a man in his 30s who was the first resident of Pennsylvania to be infected with the variant.
In Maryland, officials are busy tracing, isolating and testing close contacts of three individuals from the Baltimore area. They are the first known case in the state. Two of them are from the same family. One of the vaccinated people has recently been to South Africa, and the third has no recent travel history and has nothing to do with the other two.
Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territory Health Officials, said that “increasing” contact tracing is expected in the coming days, partly because of uncertainty about how effective treatments such as vaccines and monoclonal antibodies are against omicron.
Contact tracing is an important tool in the response to the pandemic. It allows the health department to notify people who are in close contact with an infected person and slow the progress of COVID-19.
“Contact tracing can provide us with information about how it spreads, and hopefully break the chain of transmission to prevent clusters and outbreaks, or at least delay them until we learn more and understand what needs to be done next,” said senior scholar Crystal Watson . At the Johns Hopkins University Health Safety Center at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Although there are still many unknowns about this variant, early reports are causing alarms. South Africa’s new COVID-19 cases were warned to the world for the first time last week, which surged from about 200 cases a day in mid-November to more than 16,000 cases on Friday.
Some cases in the United States involve people who have not traveled recently, which means that the variant may have spread domestically in certain areas of the country.
In New York, due to the large number of participants, the three-day animation festival in November posed a staffing challenge for trackers. A known omicron infection involved a man from Minnesota.
Officials cautioned against linking the other five coronavirus cases directly to the incident.
“The really important point here is that these are five cases in the denominator of tens of thousands of people at this conference. In addition, we have not established any connection between these five cases and the widespread dissemination at the conference,” Tedron said. , Executive Director of NYC Test & Trace Corps, responsible for managing New York City’s contact tracing program.
According to city law, a vaccination certificate is required for admission and a mask is also required.
Officials stated that they have contacted all 36,500 conference attendees, suppliers and exhibitors via email, text message or phone, and they have their contact information. But they decided that there was no need to contact every participant because the infected man did not seem to have close contacts in New York.
At the same time, Minnesota’s director of infectious diseases, Kris Ehresmann, said that in Minnesota, officials are investigating the “circle of contact” of men believed to have been infected at the meeting.
“We did point out where he had been-the New York Anime Convention-partly because there were too many people attending that event. It is impossible for him or anyone to be sure that everyone they might have attended was contacted,” Eresman said .
With the proliferation of delta variants, health investigators across the United States were overwhelmed and reduced contact tracing operations, finding that it was almost impossible to keep up with the spread of new infections, vaccinate and track them at the same time.
Many health officials ultimately focus on school exposure or potential super-spreader incidents, and large numbers of people are at risk of exposure.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, predicts that this will eventually happen to omicron.
“Contact tracing and sequencing will allow us to draw with wide strokes,” Schaffner said. “But we cannot track every case, and at a certain point in time, when you know it is here and spreading, why do we need to do this?”