First Omicron Variant Case Reported in Florida, Second Presumptive Case Investigated

The omicron variant has prompted global travel restrictions and fresh vaccine mandates since its discovery in southern Africa last month

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The first case of the new COVID-19 omicron variant in Florida has been reported at a Tampa hospital.

A spokesperson for James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital confirmed the omicron case in a statement to WFLA Tuesday.

"The patient is experiencing mild symptoms and had recently returned from international travel," the statement said. “Our providers were able to quickly detect, test, confirm and add this data to our developing understanding of this strain."

NBC 6's Carlos Suarez has the latest on testing amid the rise in cases of the omicron variant.

The Florida Department of Health received notice of the case from the hospital.

"The Department quickly identified a presumptive case of the Omicron variant in Florida. Our teams conducted contact tracing to identify possible exposures and advise on necessary isolation and quarantine protocols," the department said in a statement.

A second presumptive case was also reported in St. Lucie County, according to NBC affiliate WPTV.

At a news conference Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about the reports of omicron in the state.

"So the health is gonna have something but they believe that they have identified, I'm not sure where it is, but you know I said this last week, once you identify it a few places around the world, it has spread, okay, so you're gonna see it and just because you haven't identified it somewhere does not mean it's not there," DeSantis said.

The governor added that there would be no lockdowns for omicron in Florida.

"In Florida, we won't let them lock you down, we won't let them restrict you, we're not gonna let them impose mandates, we're not gonna let them close the schools, we are gonna protect your freedom to make your decisions," DeSantis said. "And I have no problem if somebody is worried, if they're scared of omicron and they want to lock down or they want to isolate, that is absolutely their decision in a free society, but you don't impose Fauci-ism on the whole country or on the whole state, it's wrong."

The omicron variant has prompted global travel restrictions and fresh vaccine mandates since its discovery in southern Africa last month, and has now been found in 50 countries and at least 19 states across the U.S., CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday.

Just when we thought travel rules were relaxing, new restrictions are being put in place. The omicron covid variant is raising questions about whether it will be safe to travel for the holidays. NBC 6's Julie Leonardi reports

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said scientists should have some data by the middle of next week that shows how well today's vaccines stand up to the new variant, which contains dozens of mutations that generally make it more contagious.

Fauci said reports over the weekend from South Africa suggest omicron is not as severe as initially feared, while noting that more data is needed to fully assess the risk posed by the variant.

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