Published Dec. 10, 2021Updated Dec. 14, 2021

The country has increased its genomic surveillance to try to track Omicron’s spread, but the true number of cases is likely far higher. New York State is making masking mandatory at businesses and venues that don’t require proof of vaccination.

Here’s what you need to know:

The C.D.C. found 43 Omicron cases, almost all of them mild, in the first week of December.

Tracking Omicron and Other Coronavirus Variants

See which countries have reported cases of the Omicron variant.

Forty-three infections with the Omicron variant were identified in 22 states during the first eight days of December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday, offering a first glimpse of the variant’s course in the United States.

One individual, who was vaccinated, required a brief hospital stay, and there were no deaths. The most common symptoms were cough, fatigue and congestion or a runny nose. The first cases appeared to be mild, but the report warned that “as with all variants, a lag exists between infection and more severe outcomes.”

Omicron, which has been deemed a variant of concern, is believed to be even more transmissible than the Delta variant, which continues to account for virtually all coronavirus infections in the United States.

The actual number of Omicron cases is almost certainly higher, but to what extent is uncertain. The country initiated enhanced genomic surveillance on Nov. 28 in order to increase the detection of Omicron, and an average of 50,000 to 60,000 coronavirus-positive specimens are now being sequenced every week.

The new variant contains mutations that may make it somewhat resistant to available treatments and to the body’s immune defenses, experts say.

Young adults under the age of 40 accounted for most of the Omicron cases. The majority — 34 individuals, representing 79 percent of the total — were fully vaccinated when they had their first symptoms or tested positive.

Fourteen of these people had received a booster dose before their diagnoses, and six had previously been infected with the coronavirus.

About one-third of those infected with Omicron had traveled internationally in the two weeks prior to testing positive or developing symptoms, indicating that the variant is spreading locally in communities, the report said.

The Omicron cases were found all over the country, including Hawaii, Washington State, California, Texas and Minnesota, as well as in more than a half-dozen states on the East Coast, including Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

The C.D.C. report predicted additional Omicron infections, transmitted in November, will be discovered in the coming days.

“Even if most infections are mild, a highly transmissible variant could result in enough cases to overwhelm health systems,” the authors warned. “The clinical severity of infection with the Omicron variant will become better understood as additional cases are identified and investigated.”

Experts are urging Americans to get vaccinated and to continue to practice precautions: wearing masks, improving ventilation in closed spaces, getting tested and going into quarantine, or isolation, if needed to slow transmission.

— Roni Caryn Rabin

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