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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

North Carolina’s first omicron variant of COVID-19 identified in Charlotte

A 3D-generated image of the variant of concern known as omicron. The little bumps are spike proteins.
Uma Shankar Sharma/Getty Images
A 3D-generated image of the variant of concern known as omicron. The little bumps are spike proteins.

North Carolina’s first confirmed positive case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been identified in Charlotte.

UNC Charlotte officials said Friday that they identified the variant in a student who traveled out of state during the Thanksgiving break. Mecklenburg County health officials say exposure was limited to only one known contact.

UNC Charlotte Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Rick Tankersley said the student got tested after Thanksgiving. The student was fully vaccinated and has recovered from mild symptoms, said Tankersley.

Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris said in a news conference that she’s not surprised that Charlotte had the first confirmed case of omicron because of the amount of travel in the area. “But I’d also be surprised if there’s not other cases in our state that just have not been discovered at this point,” said Harris.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday that the omicron variant has been detected in 22 states in the United States. The CDC has identified 43 cases, with no deaths and only one hospitalization.

Harris says the delta variant remains the main concern this winter even as the omicron variant is spreading across the country. She assumes more cases will show up in North Carolina and the U.S.

Tankersley says the university is scaling up its sequencing operations in anticipation of rising cases.

Catherine Welch is Assistant News Director at WFAE. She has led newsrooms at KUNC in Greely, CO, Rhode Island Public Radio in Providence, RI and WHQR in Wilmington, NC.