First Omicron-related death in US reported
The first death tied to the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been reported in Texas, as the White House announces a handful of new initiatives to battle spiking virus case numbers.
Texas health officials in Harris County announced the death this week, noting it had occurred in an unvaccinated man with “underlying health conditions” aged between 50 and 60 who had previously been infected by Covid.
Some local officials have drawn on news of the death to encourage citizens to get inoculated against Covid-19.
“This is a reminder of the severity of Covid and its variants. We urge all residents who qualify to get vaccinated and get their booster shot, if they have not already,” Harris County Public Health Executive Director Barbie Robinson said in a public statement.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the county’s Covid threat level has been raised to the second highest level.
“Omicron is spreading incredibly quickly,” she told local media.
Though the unidentified man tested positive for the Omicron variant, the announcement on his death notes that his underlying conditions had put him at a “higher risk of severe complications” from Covid-19.
Sad to report the first local fatality from the Omicron variant of COVID-19. A man in his 50’s from the eastern portion of Harris County who was not vaccinated. Please - get vaccinated and boosted.— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) December 20, 2021
The Omicron variant was first identified by scientists in southern Africa last month and still very little is known about it. The strain, however, now makes up the majority of new Covid cases in the US, with approximately 73% of coronavirus infections linked to the variant, as of Monday.
Earlier in the month, the UK announced the first known death globally that was linked to Omicron.
The announcement of the Texas death comes as the US faces a rise in Covid cases. The Biden administration announced a new set of initiatives on Tuesday to combat rising cases, including the purchase of half a billion at-home testing kits.
Other measures announced include the mobilization of 1,000 US soldiers to help with staffing issues at hospitals, and increasing federal supplies to help with hospital capacities.