Before Even Receiving a Name, Omicron Could Have Spread in New York and the Country https://t.co/vw8j9Fh6B9
— Carl Zimmer (@carlzimmer) December 5, 2021
They wore fluorescent wigs and capes with gold tassels. They arrived in knee-high white platform boots, and with feathered wings affixed to their backs. Dressed like their favorite characters, or just wearing street clothes, they packed into Manhattan’s main convention hall — some 53,000 of them — over three days in November to celebrate their love of Japanese animation shows known as anime.
In the crowd was Peter McGinn, a 30-year-old health care analyst in town from Minneapolis. He attended discussion panels, chatted with strangers about his anime podcast and, at night, sang karaoke with friends. After flying home, he learned that one friend from the convention — an anime fan from North Carolina — had just tested positive for the coronavirus. In the days to come, many more of his friends from the convention would test positive, as well. Coughing and feeling tired, Mr. McGinn also took a test. He had the virus, too.
That was Nov. 23, a day before most scientists had even heard of the new variant that was tearing across southern Africa. The World Health Organization had not yet even given the variant a name — Omicron. But it was already present in the United States, undetected…
Some municipalities, like New York City, and states, like Massachusetts, built out large-scale contact tracing organizations. Most of the U.S. population — 60 percent — is vaccinated. Just a few weeks ago, before Omicron was identified, there was widespread hope that the pandemic, in this country at least, was easing. People felt safe as they flashed their proof of vaccination — at least one dose was required for entry, consistent with the city’s rules — and streamed into the Javits Center for the convention.
But amid tens of thousands of new Delta infections in the United States each day, Omicron’s landfall and spread are easily hidden. Many coronavirus infections are asymptomatic or have only minor symptoms, slipping under the radar.
Indeed, it remains unclear if the anime convention was a super spreader event. “We haven’t found evidence of widespread transmission at the convention,” Adam Shrier, a spokesman for New York City’s contact tracing program, Test and Trace Corps, wrote in an email…
New Interview: I talked to Tulio de Oliveira about his lab’s role in discovering Omicron, the questions remaining about the variant, and travel bans on South Africa. https://t.co/cMJyHZTw9M
— Isaac Chotiner (@IChotiner) December 1, 2021