Rhode Island

Governor Reports Rhode Island's 1st COVID Omicron Case

"I want to be clear: Rhode Island is prepared. This is not cause for panic," Gov. Dan McKee said in a statement.

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Rhode Island's governor reported the state's first case of the omicron variant of coronavirus in an adult who recently had traveled out-of-state.

Gov. Dan McKee and state health officials said Saturday that the person is in their 20s, lives in Providence County and recently returned from travel in New York. They completed a primary vaccination series and had no record of a booster shot.



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Officials are working on contact tracing.

The case was identified through the ongoing genomic surveillance program coordinated by the State Health Laboratories.

Officials were expecting cases of omicron, given that the variant has been detected elsewhere in the region.

“We fully expected that Omicron would eventually be detected in Rhode Island as it has been in our neighboring states," McKee said in a statement. "I want to be clear: Rhode Island is prepared. This is not cause for panic.”

“Just like when the Delta variant was identified in Rhode Island, Rhode Islanders will come together to take the actions necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones," the governor added. "We know the best way to protect ourselves from Delta, Omicron or any other variant is to get vaccinated, get boosted, get tested and consider wearing a mask in crowded public places...Together, we can keep each other safe and healthy throughout the holiday season.”

McKee plans to announce a set of actions next week to address the growing number of COVID-19 cases and alleviate pressure on the hospital systems, while keeping schools open for in-person learning and preventing economic disruptions to small businesses. He's finalizing the plans this weekend.

McKee and the health department encouraged residents to get vaccinated, get a booster shot if they're already vaccinated, get tested and consider wearing a mask in crowded public places.

UCLA's Dr. Timothy Brewer says coronavirus vaccine booster doses can help your immune system against the Omicron variant much better than your first and second shots. Immune systems that have received more doses are able to have "a broader response," he explains.

The health department announced Friday that it was expanding booster dose eligibility to residents ages 16 and older because U.S. health authorities had again expanded the nation's booster campaign, opening extra doses of Pfizer's vaccine to several million 16- and 17-year-olds.

McKee and state health officials are encouraging residents ages 16 and older to get a booster six months after their Pfizer or Moderna primary series or two months after their Johnson & Johnson vaccination. Only Pfizer booster doses are being administered to teenagers.

There are dozens of locations for Rhode Islanders to get vaccinated at, including clinics in schools, churches, senior centers, pharmacies, and the offices of many primary care providers. For where to get vaccinated against COVID-19, go to covid.ri.gov/vaccination.

The state has had a high level of transmission since August. A holiday-season spike in cases and hospitalizations has hit even New England, one of the most highly inoculated corners of the country.

We are still learning some details of the Omicron variant and need to be cautious, says Dr. Bob Lahita of St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson, NJ. He says masks and vaccines will be key to prevent spread of the variant this holiday season.

NBC10 Boston/The Associated Press
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