Wisconsin health officials confirm first case of Omicron COVID-19 variant

Omicron coronavirus covid-19 variant
Alissa Eckert/Dan Higgins/CDC

MADISON, Wis. — The state of Wisconsin has its first confirmed case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, state health officials announced Saturday night.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says the one case was identified in a Wisconsin resident who had recently traveled to South Africa, which was one of the first countries to detect the new COVID-19 variant.

Officials say the person is a man from Milwaukee County who had been fully vaccinated and received a booster dose. The man had mild symptoms but did not need to be hospitalized.

According to DHS, this case is not related to a COVID-19 outbreak linked to a Milwaukee County wedding that saw multiple California residents get infected with the Omicron variant.

RELATED: 5 Californians who attended wedding in Milwaukee Co. test positive for Omicron COVID-19 variant, DHS says

With the announcement, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is again urging everyone to get their COVID vaccines to help prevent severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19.

“We’ve been prepared for this news and will continue trusting the science to help keep Wisconsinites and our communities healthy and safe,” Gov. Evers said. “Now is the time to double down on our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant. I urge all eligible Wisconsinites to get vaccinated and receive a booster dose as soon as possible and to follow the latest public health guidance.”

Scientists are still working to figure out how the Omicron variant compares to the Delta variant when it comes to how easily it is transmitted and how severe the infection can be.

“With the detection of Omicron in Wisconsin, Wisconsinites should stay vigilant in their efforts to stay healthy and to help prevent further strain on our heavily burdened hospital system,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said in a statement. “As we learn more about this variant and how easily it spreads, it’s crucial that all Wisconsinites continue to practice good public health safety measures like getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, staying home if you’re sick, and getting tested.”

Earlier this week, health officials said the state’s hospitals were facing circumstances worse than at any point in the pandemic, with a record-high number of people on ventilators at the end of November and multiple regions of the state not having any intensive care beds available.

The state’s latest statistics show the vast majority of people in the hospital for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. DHS data reported in mid-November showed unvaccinated people were nine times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and 11 times more likely to die than those who have been vaccinated.