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HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – The first known coronavirus death in the United States attributed to the now dominant omicron variant has been confirmed in Harris County, Texas.

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“My phone was ringing, I’m sure you guys noticed, and it was our public health director telling me we just had our first omicron-related death,” County Judge Lina Hidalgo said during a Monday afternoon news conference.

“I know, for folks in Harris County, this feels like whiplash. It follows a downward trend in hospitalizations and cases, only to see things trend back up, and it is so frustrating,” she added.

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The patient, she said, was an unvaccinated man in his 50s who had an unspecified underlying health condition, KHOU reported.

According to Harris County Public Health, the man had previously been infected with the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported.

By Tuesday afternoon, the United States had confirmed more than 51.2 million cumulative COVID-19 cases, including more than 3.2 million cases reported within the past 28 days. The virus has claimed a total of 809,112 U.S. lives since the pandemic began, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

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HCPH Executive Director Barbie Robinson called the fatality a “reminder of the severity of COVID-19 and its variants.”

“We urge all residents who qualify to get vaccinated and get their booster shot if they have not already,” Robinson stated in a news release.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 73.3% of eligible Harris County residents have had at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, the Post reported.

According to KHOU, Houston Methodist Hospital confirmed Monday that 82% of its new cases involve the omicron variant, first detected in southern Africa in late November, after only three weeks of testing for the emergent strain. By contrast, it took three months for the hospital to reach the same threshold with the delta variant, Houston Methodist officials confirmed.

According to the World Health Organization, the omicron variant has been detected in 89 countries to date, and the number of cases associated with the new strain is doubling every one-and-a-half to three days, the Post reported.

Meanwhile, a total of 14 omicron-related fatalities have been reported in the United Kingdom, the newspaper reported.

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