Omicron Case With a New York Tie Shows How Virus Outpaces Response

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Some municipalities, like New York City, and states, like Massachusetts, built out large-scale contact tracing organizations. Most of the U.S. population — 60 percent — is vaccinated. Just a few weeks ago, before Omicron was identified, there was widespread hope that the pandemic, in this country at least, was easing. People felt safe as they flashed their proof of vaccination — at least one dose was required for entry, consistent with the city’s rules — and streamed into the Javits Center for the convention.

But amid tens of thousands of new Delta infections in the United States each day, Omicron’s landfall and spread are easily hidden. Many coronavirus infections are asymptomatic or have only minor symptoms, slipping under the radar.

Indeed, it remains unclear if the anime convention was a super spreader event. “We haven’t found evidence of widespread transmission at the convention,” Adam Shrier, a spokesman for New York City’s contact tracing program, Test and Trace Corps, wrote in an email.

It is also unclear whether Mr. McGinn was infected at the convention or by a fellow attendee. But he spent successive days at the convention, and evenings with other convention goers.

Of the roughly 30 people he recalls socializing with in New York City, about half have since tested positive for the coronavirus, Mr. McGinn said. However, none of the states where they live have announced whether those people also had the Omicron variant.

Much remains unknown about Omicron, including how deadly it is or the degree of protection that Covid vaccines provide against it. But epidemiologists are once again talking about flattening the curve, through mask wearing and more cautious behavior. And they are urging action now, to avoid a repeat of the mistakes made in March 2020, when New York officials were slow to understand just how quickly the virus was spreading throughout the city.

Over the past four days, New York’s genome sequencing program has detected seven Omicron cases among residents in New York City, although health authorities have provided little information about the cases. “All of these cases are believed to be unrelated to the recent Anime NYC convention at the Javits Center,” the governor’s office said in a news release on Saturday morning.

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