An unvaccinated Houston-area man in his 50s is the first recorded fatality associated with the omicron variant in the Texas county — and may be the first U.S. death publicly attributed to it.

The man, who tested positive for the omicron variant before his death, according to Harris County Public Health, had previously been infected with the coronavirus and had underlying health conditions that made him particularly vulnerable.

State and county officials renewed calls for people to get fully vaccinated and boosted as the best protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death, including illness caused by omicron.

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“This is a reminder of the severity of COVID-19 and its variants,” Barbie Robinson, HCPH executive director, said of the Harris County man’s death in a news release. “We urge all residents who qualify to get vaccinated and get their booster shot if they have not already.”

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 73.3% of eligible county residents have had at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, leaving more than a quarter without any protection.


“Please get vaccinated and boosted,” Harris County Judge Linda Hidalgo tweeted.

The United States has been inundated by the omicron variant, which was discovered in southern Africa last month and has led to tightened restrictions in much of the world.

The World Health Organization said last week that the variant has been recorded in 89 countries and that the number of cases associated with it is doubling every 1½ to three days in areas where the variant is spreading in the community.

In England, 14 people have died of the coronavirus as tests showed they were positive for the omicron variant.

Omicron could cause less severe disease than its predecessors among those who are fully vaccinated and boosted, public health experts say, but the more transmissible variant may make rapid inroads through unvaccinated populations and overwhelm hospitals.