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Covid-19: How can an anime convention help to understand Omicron spread in the US?

An anime convention in New York may end up being a super spread event for the Omicron variant. What do we know so far and what does the event tell us?

An anime convention in New York may end up being a super spread event for the Omicron variant. What do we know so far and what does the event tell us?

The World Health Organization became aware of the Omicron variant on 24 November, and days before in New York City, the strain may have already been spreading.

On 3 December, the Anime NYC Twitter account tweeted that one attendee had tested positive with the Omicron variant. The tweet also urged others who had attended the conference to get tested if they began to experience symptoms.

The Anime NYC 2021 which took place at the Javits Center between 18 and 22 November has undertaken a vast contact tracing program, with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after a case of the Omicron variant was tied to the event.

During a virtual press conference hosted by the White House, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that "Of the reported 53,000 people who attended that conference, more than 35,000 and counting have been contacted to encourage testing for all attendees." The CDC believes that the "data from this investigation will likely provide some of the earliest looks in this country on the transmissibility of the variant."

Additionally, Dr. Walensky told the press that the CDC had been in contact with "all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., and 27 other countries with residents who attended, to inform them of this ongoing investigation."

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How many cases have been tied to the event?

So far, only one case has been identified among the thousands that attended the convention. The Minnesota native, Peter McGinn, who tested positive spoke with CNN about his symptoms and measures taken to reduce the spread at the event.

When McGinn arrived at home he found that he was exhausted, but assumed it was because of his recent trip to the Big Apple. However, he went to get tested after receiving a test from a friend and fellow convention attendee that they had received a positive diagnosis for covid-19. 

McGinn was fully vaccinated, with both the Johnson and Johnson single dose, and received a dose of Moderna as a booster shot. Public health experts and McGinn have highlighted that his symptoms could have been much worse had he not received those shots.

While other convention attendees have tested positive, scientists have yet to confirm that they were infected with the Omicron variant. In the coming days and weeks, the contract tracing project should provide greater insights into this question.

Were vaccinations required to attend?

Partly. Convention-goers only needed to have received one dose of a vaccine to be admitted.


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