Minnesota would have been a good bet for where the new omicron COVID-19 variant would be detected early in the United States.
The state's public health teams have long excelled at detecting outbreaks of more ordinary pathogens, such as E. coli and salmonella. And while California reported the nation's first omicron case on Wednesday, Minnesota wasn't far behind, reporting the second on Thursday.
Early detection doesn't prove that omicron is circulating more widely here. Instead, it underscores the value of having expert, experienced scientists combating the evolving COVID virus. Now, Minnesotans need to act on this warning by getting vaccinated and taking other precautions.
Omicron's globe-spanning capability is mind-boggling. It existence was first reported only a week ago by South African medical experts. It appears the Minnesota man who became infected with it likely was exposed while attending a New York City anime convention held Nov. 19 to 21. In other words, he was infected before most of the world knew omicron was out there.
State health officials said the Hennepin County man was both vaccinated and boosted. His infection was mild, which hopefully suggests that vaccination continues to protect against this new strain. If you haven't been vaccinated or boosted yet, omicron's arrival ought to inspire action.
There are other takeaways based on what else is known. One is that large indoor gatherings are still best avoided. More than 53,000 people reportedly attended the anime event. It's hard to think of more ideal conditions for omicron to take advantage of, even with mask requirements and other control measures in place at the convention center.
Another insight: Upgrade your mask if you haven't already. High-filtration masks, often known as N-95s, are easier to find than they were. If you're going to wear a mask, wear a better one, especially if you cannot or will not avoid high-transmission settings.
The Minnesota man infected also commendably got tested right away. Taking personal responsibility like this led to omicron's quick detection.
The state's health commissioner sounded the alarm this week about growing COVID laxness. Trips to stores suggest too many are no longer masking. The vaccination rate still has much room for improvement. As of Monday, 64.7% of those eligible for the shot in Minnesota are considered fully vaccinated.
Omicron's arrival signals it's time to take the fight to COVID, not retreat.