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Arkansas reports first case of omicron variant of virus

December 17, 2021 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas on Friday reported its first case of the omicron COVID-19 variant as the state’s coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continued to increase.

The Arkansas Department of Health did not release information about the person’s location, age or gender, nor whether they had been vaccinated. However, department spokeswoman Meg Mirivel said the case was not associated with travel.

The variant’s appearance in the state had been expected as it spreads throughout the United States. The variant has been detected in at least 40 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Globally, more than 75 countries have reported confirmed omicron cases.

“This was expected, and we expect more cases of the variant to be confirmed in the near future,” Gov Asa Hutchinson tweeted. “This is not a surprise, but it is a compelling reason to get a booster shot now.”

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The state reported 1,111 new virus cases, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 542,426. The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by nine to 538. The state reported 17 new COVID-19 deaths.

Arkansas ranks 35th in the country for new virus cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers.