The first death linked to the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been reported in Texas, as the White House announces a handful of new initiatives to combat the surge in virus cases.
Texas health officials in Harris County announced the death this week, noting it occurred in an unvaccinated man with “underlying health conditions” aged between 50 and 60 who had previously been infected with Covid.
Some local officials took inspiration from the news of the death to encourage citizens to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
“It is a reminder of the seriousness of Covid and its variants. We urge all residents who qualify to get vaccinated and receive their booster, if they have not already done so,” Harris County Public Health Executive Director Barbie Robinson said in a public statement.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the county’s Covid threat level had been raised to the second-highest level.
“Omicron spreads incredibly quickly,” she told local media.
Although the unidentified man tested positive for the Omicron variant, the announcement of his death notes that his underlying conditions had put him at a “higher risk of serious complications” of Covid-19.
Sad to report the first local death from the Omicron variant of COVID-19. A man in his 50s from eastern Harris County who was not vaccinated. Please – get vaccinated and boosted.
— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) December 20, 2021
The Omicron variant was first identified by scientists in southern Africa last month and very little is still known about it. The strain, however, now accounts for the majority of new Covid cases in the United States, with around 73% of coronavirus infections linked to the variant as of Monday.
Earlier this month, the UK announced the world’s first known death linked to Omicron.
The death announcement in Texas comes as the United States faces a rise in Covid cases. The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a new series of initiatives to combat rising cases, including the purchase of half a billion home testing kits.
Other measures announced include mobilizing 1,000 US troops to address staffing issues in hospitals and increasing federal supplies to bolster hospital capacity.