A family and their pets walk through Miami International Airport, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in Miami. Public health officials are urging caution as the new omicron variant might become the dominant strain in the U.S. during the holiday break. Credit: Marta Lavandier / AP

Maine detected its first cases of omicron, a new variant that spreads much faster than previous COVID strains, last week in Penobscot County.

Omicron has quickly overtaken delta as the dominant variant in the U.S., with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that omicron now comprises 73 percent of all COVID cases on Monday. An unvaccinated Texas man who was previously infected with the virus is the first recorded U.S. death attributed to omicron.

There are still many unknowns about the new variant, with studies by the U.S. CDC and from South Africa finding that omicron may be milder but more contagious than the previously dominant delta variant that fueled Maine’s rise in cases through the last half of 2021. These findings are only preliminary, experts caution.

Vaccines are still expected to be effective against severe cases of the variant and public health officials have doubled down on calls for Mainers to get vaccinated or boosted, with Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah tweeting on Saturday that boosters are “critical as we face Omicron.”

The Bangor Daily News would like to know if the new variant is impacting your holiday plans. Are you concerned about exposure? Are you canceling travel? Do you want family and friends to get tested before celebrating? Join the conversation by answering the questions below.

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Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.