NYC anime convention may offer ‘earliest looks’ at Omicron spread in US
It was his last day in New York. He had an exciting four days meeting in person for the first time with friends he made online during the pandemic. They explored the bustling streets of New York City together and saw anime exhibits at the Anime NYC convention.
“During my time there, I was walking everywhere in New York City. So, I personally just thought that I was just exhausted from doing a lot of walking, not a lot of sleep, eating pretty poorly,” McGinn said. “I thought that was all just catching up to me.”
McGinn didn’t think twice about his fatigue until he returned home to Minnesota on November 22. Later that day he received a group text from someone he spent time with in New York. They texted to the group that they had Covid-19.
McGinn took a rapid at-home test the next day. He tested positive.
“I had such mild symptoms.” McGinn said. “If it wasn’t for somebody in my party alerting me that they tested positive, I honestly would have thought I had a cold.”
McGinn’s Covid-19 diagnosis was confirmed with a PCR test and lab results revealed that he was infected with the newly identified Omicron coronavirus variant.
He now wants to be a “resource” for the public and public health, and emphasizes that if he wasn’t fully vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine and boosted with a Moderna booster dose that he could have had a more severe illness.
“The main reason why I wanted to speak out and be a resource was because of the unknown of the new variant,” McGinn said. “I’ve been working with the Minnesota Department of Health in terms of contact tracing with the contacts I was with in New York City.”
Among the 30 people that McGinn said he spent time with in New York, 15 total — including him — tested positive for Covid-19, and they all had mild symptoms except for one who McGinn said “had a bad day” but did not require hospitalization.
Only one person, other than McGinn, has been confirmed to be infected with the Omicron variant, but McGinn said that when he spoke with health officials they told him it’s overwhelmingly likely that everyone who tested positive probably was infected with Omicron.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has contacted more than 35,000 people so far who attended a recent anime convention in New York.
The agency is encouraging these anime enthusiasts to get tested for Covid-19.
These contact tracing efforts — arguably the largest in the nation to involve Omicron — could hold clues to just how easily and quickly this variant may spread.
“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,” Walensky said. “Data from this investigation will likely provide some of the earliest looks in this country on the transmissibility of the variant.”
“Most recently, CDC is assisting both the Minnesota and New York City Health Departments with the investigation among attendees at a recent Anime New York City Convention and has now contacted all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, and 27 other countries with residents who attended to inform them of this ongoing investigation,” Walensky said Tuesday.
Last week, following the identification of the Omicron variant in the Minnesota man who traveled to New York City and attended the anime convention, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged attendees to get tested for Covid-19 as quickly as possible.
The organizers noted that all convention attendees should receive emails or phone calls from either their local health departments or the NYC Test and Trace Corps, which conducts testing and contact tracing, with further information.