The Omicron variant was designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26. The variant’s presence in Maryland was confirmed by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) Public Health Laboratory, in collaboration with partner laboratories.
All three of the cases announced today involve individuals from the Baltimore Metropolitan Region. Two cases are from the same household, including a vaccinated individual who recently traveled to South Africa and an unvaccinated person who was a close contact of that individual.
One unrelated case involves a vaccinated individual with no known recent travel history. None of the three individuals are hospitalized.
Comprehensive contact tracing efforts are already underway to ensure that potential close contacts are quickly identified, quarantined, and tested.
"Thanks to our aggressive surveillance system, we have quickly identified the first cases of the Omicron variant in Maryland," said Governor Hogan. "We urge Marylanders to continue taking precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Getting a vaccine or a booster shot is the single most important thing that you can do to protect yourself and those around you. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we will continue to keep Marylanders updated as new information becomes available."
Earlier this week, the governor and state health officials outlined the state’s preparedness efforts for the Omicron variant, including further expanding variant surveillance and making free at-home rapid antigen tests available at the international terminal at BWI Airport.
"Currently available PCR diagnostic tests and rapid antigen tests will detect COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant," said MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Jinlene Chan. "In addition to getting booster shots, we strongly recommend that Marylanders who have recently returned from international travel or are symptomatic in any way get tested immediately."
Scientists at the federal and state levels are working with international partners to learn more about Omicron, including how transmissible it is; how severe the disease that it causes may be; and if the variant’s genetic changes will alter the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments such as monoclonal antibody infusions.
The Omicron variant has now been reported in nearly 40 countries. The new variant was first identified in the United States on Dec. 1.