FRESNO, Calif. -- Governor Gavin Newsom was in Merced County Wednesday as word quickly spread that the first known U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California.
"This was predicted," he said. "It's not surprising in the state of California because of its sequencing, the testing protocol and the state testing lab."
State officials confirmed the person was a traveler who returned to San Francisco from South Africa days before Thanksgiving, is fully vaccinated, and is recovering from mild symptoms.
"The evidence that an individual with Omicron identified by sequencing actually has mild symptoms is improving think is a testimony to the importance of the vaccinations."
The San Joaquin Valley has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state and hospitals are consistently operating above capacity.
On Wednesday, the governor promoted vaccines and boosters ahead of a potential winter surge.
"The longer we live with this virus, the more mutations, the more variants we will have to face," he said.
At Frank Sparkes Elementary, Brandon Currin and his daughter, Cassidy, decided to stop by the on-campus vaccine clinic.
"We decided to come get my booster and her vaccinated," he said. "At this point in the pandemic, there's no excuse to do what you can for the community."
Felysha Leglu has a seven-year-old daughter and is still on the fence.
"We just want to wait to see how it goes and how people respond," she said. "Even if it's some younger kids in our family, maybe I'll feel a little more comfortable. I'm not against it."
Officials believe the Omicron variant is highly contagious but say there are still a lot of unknowns.
"There's more panic than information around this new variant and that this means we have to keep our minds open, but maintain our vigilance."