Omicron variant detected in South Dakota, the last U.S. state to confirm a case

PIERRE, S.D.(Argus Leader)- South Dakota became the final state in the nation to confirm a case of the COVID-19 omicron variant on Wednesday. The SD Department of Health said the man is in his 20s and reside in Minnehaha county.

The fast moving variant first detected in South Africa has swept around the world because of its increased transmissibility versus previous variants. The first case in the United States was reported Dec. 1.

Analysis of omicron is ongoing, but some experts say it could be less severe than previous variants of the coronavirus. The South Dakota Department of Health noted that it could reduce the effectiveness of COVID-19 treatments.

Still, the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to reduce severe illness from the variant, State Epidemiologist Joshua Clayton said.

“The best way to protect yourself from severe disease with this variant is to get vaccinated,” Clayton said in a release announcing the discovery. “We urge South Dakotans to monitor for symptoms and get tested as soon as they experience symptoms.”

Dr. David Basel, the vice president of clinical quality at Avera Medical Group, said that Avera had stepped up its surveillance for omicron since it started sweeping the world. The hospital system was also preparing for an increase in hospitalizations.

Basel said that the coming weeks will determine what the new variant does to hospital rates. Even if the hospitalization rate is lower among people infected with the variant, overall hospitalizations might increase because of it.