Michigan reported its first case of the omicron variant late Thursday as the state battles one of the worst surges of COVID-19 in the nation.
The unnamed person in Kent County, which contains Grand Rapids, is an adult who was fully vaccinated but had not received a booster, officials said.
Michigan joins over 20 states that have seen the new strain. First detected in South Africa, omicron appears to spread faster than the delta variant, though doctors haven’t reported more severe disease from the variant with a number of mutations.
“The identification of the omicron variant is not unexpected,” Kent County Health Department Director Adam London said. “We are fortunate that we have effective, safe and available vaccines that can protect us from this illness. We continue to urge people to get their vaccine and to get their boosters as soon as they are eligible.”
The omicron case was reported Dec. 3 and confirmed through sequencing on Dec. 9.
The Michigan case is notable because the state is seeing a big surge in hospitalizations as the weather cools. It leads the nation with 46 persons hospitalized with COVID-19 per 100,000 in the state, compared to 39 in Arizona and Ohio — the next two states on the list in a New York Times tracker.
A CNN report said health workers in Michigan are under heavy stress and having panic attacks as they tend to an increasing number of dying patients, including younger adults.
Jim Dover, president and CEO of Sparrow Health System in Lansing, said they’ve seen 289 virus deaths since January and 75% were unvaccinated.
“And the very few [vaccinated people] who passed away all were more than 6 months out from their shot. So we’ve not had a single person who has had a booster shot die from COVID,” he told CNN.
In terms of relative risk, state data show unvaccinated persons have 4.4 times the risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and 9.3 times the risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to people who are fully vaccinated.